Montgomery School System Looks To Reduce Class Sizes

County hoping for additional state education funding

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The county school board is ready to take a deep dive into class size.

The Montgomery County Board of Education passed a resolution this week asking Superintendent Jack Smith to review class size guidelines at all grade levels, an issue that has long intrigued school officials.

Smith’s review will include examining the history of the county’s average class size, current class size guidelines and budgetary implications of modifications. He is scheduled to report his findings to the board in June.

In 2017, the school system included nearly $40 million in its budget in a targeted effort to reduce class sizes by about two students per class. The average class size in Maryland in the 2016-2017 school year was 20.46 students, according to the state Department of Education.

Average class sizes for the 2017-2018 school year, as reported in the school district’s Schools at a Glance profile, are as follows:

• Kindergarten: 19.0 students

• First through third grade: 20.5 students

• Fourth and fifth grade: 24.3 students

• Middle school English classes: 16 students

• Other middle school classes: 16.6 students

• High school English classes: 19 students

• Other high school classes: 20.1 students

Additionally, Smith said this week the county could receive up to $5 million more than the roughly 70 million he requested in his proposed fiscal 2020 operating budget when Gov. Larry Hogan releases the state budget in mid-January.

Smith cautioned it’s possible Montgomery County schools won’t receive any additional funding, but initial projections forecast good fortune for the county. He recommended to the school board any extra money be put toward a short-term effort “to lower class size guidelines in elementary schools.”

“It’s a good use of resources if we have them,” Smith said.

Maryland funds about 27 percent of the school system budget, while the county government provides about 65 percent. Remaining money comes from the federal government and other revenue sources.

Smith’s proposed fiscal 2020 operating budget totals $2.65 billion and focuses heavily on increasing staff to manage growth and expanding programs intended to close an achievement gap in academic performance between white and minority students.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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