Smaller classes approved

Posted: Friday, June 08, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Public school class sizes in Alaska's largest city will drop by an average of one student per classroom next fall if the Anchorage Assembly gives its approval.

Class sizes have bounced up and down depending on the district's financial fortune each year.

A recently approved $21 million increase in state and federal funding will allow the district to hire more teachers and counselors. The district will also spend more on teacher training, school maintenance, supplies and equipment. The district also plans to reduce student fees for parking, sports and the 2002 summer school.

A plan approved by the school board this week sets a budget of $448.7 million, resulting in average class sizes of 24 students in grades two and three; 27 students in grades four to six; 25.5 in grades seven and eight, and 27 in high school.

First-grade class sizes, at about 21 students, may also drop because of increased federal funding for primary grades, said Superintendent Carol Comeau.

The district last made major class size cuts in 1998, another year when the state increased funding.

Last year, with a statewide property tax cap initiative looming on the November ballot, the assembly cut the district's budget request. The initiative later failed. But by then, the district had already slashed about 70 teaching positions and raised average class sizes by one for the 2000-01 school year.

The new budget would restore class sizes to where they were before that round of cuts. This time, Comeau hopes the class size reduction can be sustained. It's the biggest issue parents and teachers talk about, she said.

The Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to consider the district's spending plan June 19.

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