School District presents first report on class sizes

This past month, the School Board for the Lebanon Community School District awarded bids for facility projects, and regular reports were heard. One report included enrollment numbers for each class in the district, revealing where “overcrowding” may require discussions with teachers to alleviate the burden. This is the first time the District has reported on class sizes since it negotiated its recent collective bargaining agreement with licensed District staff.

In a special school board meeting held Jan. 18, the board:

⯁ Awarded the Lacomb School roofing project to ABC Roofing to replace the main section of roof over the elementary school section of the school in the amount of $1,644,172. Board Member Melissa Baurer asked if the other part of the roof was found to be in good condition, to which COO Will Lewis responded it is a 20-year roof that is at 20 years, so it will eventually need to be replaced as well. At this point in time, he added, the District needs to focus spending its funds on the “critical need” projects first.

⯁ Awarded the high school Cafeteria Equipment Project to Curtis Restaurant Equipment to replace cafeteria equipment in the amount of $347,014. They were the only bidders to respond to a request for proposal. The need is there because, Lewis said, the lunch service has “dramatically” increased since the pandemic from about 250 meals served to now about 600. Plus, some of the current equipment is failing.

⯁ Awarded the high school Cafeteria Renovation Project to First Cascade Corporation in the amount of $141,580. The board, as required by law, also approved an increase in the limit for immediate procurement to cover that amount.

During the regular Feb. 8 board meeting:

⯁ Special Education Director Steve Woodcock reported on data for restraint and seclusion actions during the 2022-23 school year. There were six times when restraint was enacted and 40 times when seclusion was used. A history of incidents since the 2013-14 school year revealed the number of restraints has declined drastically, while the number of seclusion increased drastically. It was noted that only two students this past school year were among those placed in seclusion. All the students in the data this year were white, a majority were male, a majority had a disability, and two were economically disadvantaged.

⯁ Supt. Jennifer Meckley presented the winter STAR progress for K-8 in reading and math. The numbers are in relation to “normed” numbers across the nation, she explained. By looking specifically at the average percentile rank, the District can see growth that they are “so pleased” to see, with a 53 percentile increase in reading and 40 percentile growth in math. Comparing Fall’s data with Winter’s, all schools except Hamilton Creek showed growth, ranging from +3 to +13. Hamilton Creek scored -1 in reading and +1 in math; Meckley attributed it to a high number of new teachers at the school.

Highlighted data indicates which elementary classes are considered overcrowded.

⯁ In responding to the recent collective bargaining agreement with licensed District staff, Meckley provided a report of class sizes and case management loads. In the agenda packet on the subject, she stated, “We make every effort to keep the classes and case management loads within the recommended ranges. When they are higher, it is our goal to provide some extra support to the employee.”

For K-8, the report showed all schools but Cascades have four or five class sizes that are above the recommended enrollment, but only by one to six extra students. Riverview had the highest number of “over enrolled” students. Meckley explained there are a variety of reasons a class size might be higher than recommended, but emphasized open enrollment as one of the main reasons. “We’re working on transitioning away from open enrollment so that we can avoid overcrowded schools and schools that have far less students,” she said.

According to the report, the school enrollment indicates the following total numbers: Cascades 262, Green Acres 310, Hamilton Creek 263, Lacomb 224, Pioneer 336, Riverview 421. At Seven Oak Middle School, 42 of its 171 classes exceed the recommended class sizes. At the high school, 40 of its 566 classes exceeded the recommended class sizes, to which Meckley explained the new block scheduling has contributed to the issue. Musical Theater Production holds the highest number of students with 60; a high school class is considered over the recommended size when it reaches 32. Board member Tom Oliver noted some Language Arts classes are under-limit while others are over, and some Spanish classes exceed numbers while French classes have very low enrollment numbers. Meckley added that timing of class electives may be contributing to some of the overcrowding.

⯁ COO William Lewis III reported the contract with Sand Ridge Charter School is up for renewal. The Board agreed to set up a meeting time with the school to negotiate the contract terms.

⯁ Lewis reported the roofing contract has not yet been signed by the contractor. He said the District is “working through that.” If for some reason the contract does not go through, the District is prepared with a back-up plan and will report to the Board at the time they cross that bridge, he said.

⯁ Lewis reported the new classroom building at Seven Oak is on its way to being finished as the roof has now been completed. The first cut on the concrete floor, HVAC and windows are installed, and the siding is currently going up. The second cut on the floor and classroom framing is next on the to-do list. He expects the building to be completed by May.

⯁ Lewis told the board the facilities department staff are looking at ways to be more efficient. The District’s main storage facility is at the former school in Waterloo. The District received air purifiers for every school in the district, plus five years’ worth of filters, he said. All of that will be shipped and stored in Waterloo until staff need to install them, all of which essentially costs money to do (mileage, driving time, etc.). On a side note, the District is canceling its contract with the City of Lebanon, which maintains landscape for the District, and will use its own staff to continue the work. The landscape/maintenance crew will use winter months to focus more on maintenance needs.

“What we’re trying to do is get more efficient with the current staff we have, and then utilize those individuals… to do the maintenance and additional maintenance needs around the school district (during winter months),” he said.

⯁ Oliver reported that Board Member Mike Martin submitted his resignation for the position. The board will declare the seat’s vacancy at its next meeting and begin the process of appointing a qualified resident, he said.