Following a smattering of impassioned public comments by Saline Area Schools parents who have spoken to draw attention to growing class sizes, district officials announced this week that a formal discussion on the topic is slated for later this month.
The talk will focus on kindergarten through third-grade classes in particular, which are currently just beginning to trend in the wrong direction, according to Superintendent Scot Graden.
"In 2013 we had some discussion around the policy of it, in 2016 we had a task force that looked at target areas, and now we're going to take a deeper dive," Graden said, adding that last year's and the current's year's classroom counts will be compared first.
Saline schools are just beginning to see class sizes rise on the youngest periphery of the K-12 age range in its elementary school buildings after class size numbers were driven downward to within the acceptable class size range for several years.
Graden reported that roughly 40 percent of Saline's kindergarten through third-grade classes are above the target headcount of 20 to 22 students per teacher.
Many of the district's kindergarten classrooms have 23 or 24 students each, several third-grade classrooms are above the threshold by "a few more across the board," and one second-grade classroom is over, according to Graden.
"It's not as if we're shooting for a target of 22 and putting 29 in a class, which would cascade upwards," he said to put the current circumstances in perspective, before indicating the district will work hard to ensure that classroom sizes never get that over the target.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, one in 20 first-grade students in the state is in a classroom of 40 or more students.
Michigan is one of 15 states that does not place a statutory cap on classroom size, leaving the matter as a logistical and financial challenge for local administrators and elected school board members.
Four more teachers working in the district would relieve the pressure, Graden said.
District officials will spend a good deal of discussion time on this topic going over finances and attempting to come up with a fiscal path forward that involves resources being devoted to teaching staff so this problem doesn't grow or move to the upper grades.