Class size on the rise

At the Tuesday, Sept. 19 Moorestown BOE meeting, the board addressed the late summer influx of student enrollment.

A spike in enrollment during late August had the Moorestown Board of Education approving a waiver of the district’s class size policy at its Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting. The unprecedented increase was the topic of much discussion about how to handle growing class sizes both in the short and long term.

Superintendent Scott McCartney said in the last two weeks of August, the district received 93 new enrollments. He said virtually every school except for Moorestown High School has seen a substantial increase.

“If you look historically, we’ve had growth but not that growth,” McCartney said of the spike.

The increase had McCartney asking the board for a waiver of the class size policy for a fifth-grade math class and an a.m. kindergarten class. According to the Moorestown school district’s policy on class size, kindergarten classes are capped at a maximum of 22 students, and fifth-grade classes are capped at 25 students. The waiver allows for 27 students in the fifth-grade math course at the Upper Elementary School and 23 students in a kindergarten class at Mary E. Roberts Elementary School.

As of the Sept. 19 meeting, South Valley Elementary School has room for one more student, Mary E. Roberts is completely capped and George C. Baker Elementary School has room for around eight students. McCartney said when Moorestown hits those caps, the school typically closes enrollment and the next student who comes in moves to a school with an open seat.

McCartney said the increase has the district taking a close look at enrollment data. He said the growth could be indicative of a population shift, and for that reason, the district plans to meet with the township to take a look at construction, housing and birth rates to help it as it forms long-range plans.

“So part of our homework and part of our research this year and our objectives will be in the budget process and in our planning process to really look at where that enrollment is going,” McCartney said.

Moorestown Education Association Vice President Bridgit Potts, a first-grade teacher at Roberts, took to public comments with a passionate plea to the board not to approve the waiver. She was joined by the district’s kindergarten staff who stood up when Potts acknowledged their presence at the meeting.

Potts said having 23 5-year-olds in a room is “nothing short of unacceptable.”

“To speak that any of us know what it’s like to have that number of students, 5-year-olds with the rigor of the curriculum they’re delivering, and we’re going to say that that’s OK 10 days into school?” Potts said.

Potts expressed her disappointment in the administration and asked the board reject the waiver in the hope that it forces the administration to find a more creative solution to the problem. She also underscored that Roberts has space that is not being utilized.

Board member Peter Palko inquired as to whether the waiver was for a specific year or if it permanently changed the district’s policy on class size. Board president Sandra Alberti clarified the waiver is for this specific year.

“This waiver is to the number of enrollment we have now, so should another student add into those grade levels or sections, it will come back to the board,” Alberti said.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at William W. Allen Middle School.