School sign

Over the last few years, enrollment in Cleveland has spiked, especially in the younger grades.

So, to maintain reasonable class sizes, the Cleveland school board capped open enrollment for the kindergarten class for the 23-24 school year.

But it has not closed open enrollment throughout the school, said board member Nancy Heldberg.

“The board implemented a policy that manages class size based on student numbers, teacher needs, available space and staffing. We will continue to monitor this policy and adjust it based on these factors. Decisions will be determined per class and not the entire school. As always, we welcome open enrolled students and families.”

Committee formed

To better understand enrollment demand and how student numbers affect the school's resources, the board formed a committee, which was made up of board members and administration.

Specifically, the committee wanted to learn the following, said board member Ryan Ponwith:

Why is the spike occurring?
Where is it coming from?
What is the projected longevity of the spike?
What is the impact it has on our school's educational environment?
What is the impact on class sizes and space requirements?
What is the financial impact when it comes to managing class sizes?

“We determined that we expect, based on census data and other trends, enrollment will continue to increase, not only within the classes of students currently enrolled but also in the next classes coming into Cleveland over the next 3-4 years.”

Policy implemented

In the past, to maintain a reasonable class size, the school’s strategy was to move teachers around each year to the grade levels that needed an extra section. But with continued higher enrollment, that strategy would no longer work well, Ponwith said.

“If this were a one-time need to get through a year, I think we would have stayed with that plan. But current enrollment and projected future enrollment dictate that we will need three sections in K-3 for the foreseeable future.”

So, with collaboration between the School Board and administration as well as input from faculty, the board implemented a class size policy during its May meeting. The policy is being used as a matrix for making decisions on classroom needs, teacher needs, managing enrollment and budgeting.

“After analyzing enrollment, staffing, space availability and financial impact, we put together a policy that best supports these factors.” Ponwith said. “The policy solidifies that we will continue to honor our district's history of having a strong learning environment and reasonable class sizes, all while being fiscally responsible to the school district and its constituents.”

Adjustments made

Based on what the committee learned, the board decided to hire an additional elementary teacher in K-3 to solidify a team of three sections each in these grade levels.

“Looking at projections, current enrollment and keeping with our commitment to reasonable class sizes, we felt that adding an additional elementary teacher is the responsible solution,” Heldberg said.

But, since the projected enrollment for the 2023/2024 kindergarten class put class sizes slightly over what the class size policy allowed, enrollment was capped for next year.

But overall, Heldberg and Ponwith wanted to reiterate that the school has not shut out students from other districts.

“We  plan to continue welcoming open-enrolled students into Cleveland,” Ponwith said. “We simply put policy in place to allow our school to effectively manage open enrollment to ensure we stay within our capacity and capabilities.”

And the school will make adjustments to class size as the plan allows, he said.

“If, for some reason, enrollment drops below our class size policy for that grade level, we can resume taking in more open enrollment for that class.”