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Manchester schools to consider 30-student class limit

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 21. 2013 11:14PM

MANCHESTER - Here's an idea for dealing with the vexing problem of crowded high school classes: simply prevent administrators from enrolling more than 30 students per class.

Under a policy proposal to be discussed by the school boards's Curriculum and Instruction Committee this evening, regular classes would have a size limit of 30 students and labs would have a limit of 24.

Dozens of high school classes have had more than 30 students this school year, prompting the towns of Hooksett and Candia to take steps to remove their kids from city high schools on the grounds that the class sizes violate their contract with the district. The contract calls for Manchester to meet state Department of Education standards, which include a class size limit of 30 students.

In addition to blocking enrollment in classes that have more than 30 students, the policy would cancel courses that have fewer than 15 students enrolled. Such courses could only be offered if they are designed for special education students or English learners. The policy also allows under-enrolled courses to be offered through the computer-equipped "virtual" classrooms, enabling additional students to participate remotely at the other high schools.

All students would have access to core classes under the policy, which would likely require additional teachers. At the same time, some electives would likely have to be eliminated, according to Curriculum and Instruction Committee Chairman Sarah Ambrogi.

"It's about having core subjects with no more than 30 kids, but also not having boutique classes either," she said. "As we get into the implications of the policy, we might have to run a smaller number of classes that some people are attached to. As a policy, it's about running the district as efficiently as possible."

If passed, the policy likely won't apply until students next sign up for classes for fall 2013.

District officials formulated the policy at the direction of Mayor Ted Gatsas, who has questioned why principals should be allowed to enroll more than 30 students per class.

The principals of the district's three main high schools are expected to address the subcommittee on Tuesday.

The proposed policy change is part of a larger effort to reform the high school "program of studies," with the goal of eliminating more obscure and specialized courses. Such a task may prove difficult since it may target advanced-level courses favored by high-achieving students, as well as courses like needlework, which was revealed to be for special needs students, after some school board members questioned its value.

The policy may also crimp the ability of students to craft their courses of study.

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