When is a school too small?

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When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:19 pm

Philisophical question. Assuming money and finding teachers aren't the main issue, when does a high school become too small to offer the students a good opportunity to develop socially and intellectually. I think it's a valid question for some districts to answer as school populations dwindle. At what point should consolidation be considered? Or should it not be considered until finances become the issue? What are your thoughts?
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:03 pm

Winner-within and I have had some good debates about this issue. If a school is financially stable, the community supports it staying open, and good teachers can be hired I think a school can remain open until they basically run out of kids. With the technology currently available, kids can take classes from other schools over ITV or even online or by correspondence if they are not offered at their school. As far as extracurricular activities and opportunities goes, this can be found by co-oping with a neighboring school. I have never heard of a school where if a student wanted to participate in something not offered, they didn't find a school to co-op with so it was available. A lot of people will make the argument about everyday social opportunities because it is harder for some students to fit in in the smaller schools, but at the same time I've known a lot of homeschooled kids who are just fine socially, too. That just depends on the kids I guess. If my son/daughter had a very hard time socially at a small school, I would open enroll him/her in a larger school. I think that is something that needs to be addressed individually and wouldn't always be solved by consolidation anyway. Basically I think it just comes down to each district. If the community feels their school is too small to provide the opportunities they want their kids to have, then they should look at consolidation but if they feel everything is fine they should hang on as long as they feel is right. There are schools that have around 50 kids total that are still open and doing fine, and then there are schools that have 200-300 kids total that have consolidated.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:55 pm

The thing you have to realize, however, is that different people living within the district will make the decision of when it is too small at different times. It's not like one year everyone thinks it's fine, but then we lose 3 more kids and everybody decides that now it's too small. That's the problem. Very hard on a community and it's members to make those decisions. And that translates down to the kids as well.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:26 pm

Yeah, but its not a decision that is made at a single meeting. There are public forums held for a long time and all options are discussed so everyone can make an informed decision. Then it has to come to a vote before consolidation can take place. Once the majority (or 2/3 if that's whats required) decide its too small and there is a better option it will show in the voting. Look how many times the Hatton Northwood consolidation has been voted down so they are obviously fine with the size of their schools, but then Valley and Edinburg voted a consolidation through the first time overwhelmingly so they thought they were getting too small.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:20 pm

You bring up Hatton and Northwood as an example. If I remember correctly the last time they voted (and please correct me if I'm wrong), Northwood overwelming approved the idea, by something like 90+%. Hatton rejected it by a somewhat closer margin - 45% for it, and 55% against. Something like that. So, in this case, a few Hatton votes shut down an idea. If you looked at the population of the entire consolidated district of both schools, the total votes would have supported the consolidation. To me, that's a problem. That is why these consolidation efforts so often fail. You have two school districts near one another, and one wants to do something, but the other doesn't. 90+% of Northwood wanted to consolidate, so I don't think the majority of people in Northwood were obviously fine with the size of their school.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:24 pm

But you also have to take into account when the last vote happened Northwood was without a school because of the tornado and I'm sure there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of their town in general. It would be interesting to see how a vote would play out now that things are more stable and they have a brand new school.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:37 pm

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the vote I'm talking about took place about a month or two before the the tornado happened. Northwood has since then built a new school, so maybe attitudes are different now. I don't know. But anyway, Northwood was just an example. You see my point about how sometimes a district and it's voters may want desperately to make a change, but unless a nearby district is willing to compromise, nothing can happen.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:20 am

Sorry, MONEY is the driving force behind whether a school should remain open or not. This is not an ideal world. If a high school (grades 9-12) doesn't have 20-25 kids per class it is not a viable operation because they either can't offer the electives needed and if they do they have teachers with only three to five kids in some of their classes. This is inefficient. One of our local legislators believes that's why the state increased funding because now they can determine if schools should remain open. This will make it easier to do what makes economic sense...
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:57 pm

scruffy wrote:Sorry, MONEY is the driving force behind whether a school should remain open or not. This is not an ideal world. If a high school (grades 9-12) doesn't have 20-25 kids per class it is not a viable operation because they either can't offer the electives needed and if they do they have teachers with only three to five kids in some of their classes. This is inefficient. One of our local legislators believes that's why the state increased funding because now they can determine if schools should remain open. This will make it easier to do what makes economic sense...

I'm not going to dispute your opinion because as a businessman, I'm sure you have a valid point, but the question was, "assuming money and finding teachers aren't the main issue, when does a high school become too small to offer the students a good opportunity to develop socially and intellectually?"
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:46 pm

Taking money and the emotions of closing a small school down, I'd say anything less then 30-35 kids per class should be the cutoff.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby Indy5 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:54 pm

scruffy wrote:Taking money and the emotions of closing a small school down, I'd say anything less then 30-35 kids per class should be the cutoff.

I have to disagree with that. That is a pretty good size class. I would say 15 per class should be the cutoff. Maybe up in the 20 region.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:02 pm

Our school has around 40 kids per class and even that is stretching it as far as fine arts (drama, speech, choir etc..)and some electives go. As we continue to get smaller it will be harder and harder to provide the well rounded education that is needed.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:07 pm

I have taught in schools that have 10-15 kids in a class or less even and all 3 schools were able to offer many electives and extracurricular activities. And with the advancement in technology there is really no class a student can't take if they want to. The high school I graduated from hasn't averaged more than 20 in a class in over 30 years and the electives and extracurricular activities offered have increased since that time. Are you telling me it should have been shut down 30 years ago?
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:45 pm

YES! For me it all comes down to economics. The taxpayers of this state deserve to have their dollars spent in the most efficient manner possible.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:48 pm

What's your experience with small schools? Ever gone to school at one, lived in a small town, or anything?
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:55 pm

I serve on a budget committee for a school board. Our school has about 35 kids per class.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby Indy5 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:36 pm

scruffy wrote:I serve on a budget committee for a school board. Our school has about 35 kids per class.

Its different for you. Your school is private is it not? I am guessing that based on your location.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby Flip » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:02 am

scruffy wrote:Taking money and the emotions of closing a small school down, I'd say anything less then 30-35 kids per class should be the cutoff.

This is pretty crazy if you ask me. How many HS would be left?
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:13 am

Flip wrote:
scruffy wrote:Taking money and the emotions of closing a small school down, I'd say anything less then 30-35 kids per class should be the cutoff.

This is pretty crazy if you ask me. How many HS would be left?

Ya, scruffy, I think you are stretching the envelope pretty far. The second grade class in Grafton (the largest school in ND Class B) only has 39 kids. Take out the states 8 big cities and you have less than 30 schools in the state that meet your criteria.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:06 am

Like I said that's IF we take the emotions and money out of it. I realize that it's an "ideal world" situation and will not happen. However in situations where there are two small schools within fifteen to twenty-five miles of each other then there are options that could be considered.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:19 pm

That's part of the problem once you get west of the RRV, most towns that still have schools are 30 or more miles apart. I've driven a bus route for a small school. Some of the kids live 20-25 miles from town and I only had a dozen kids on the route, but by the time I dropped off the last kid he had been on the bus for almost two hours. Now if this school consolidated with the nearest school that is 30 miles away, how much longer would these kids have to be on the bus? Plus with these two towns being 30 miles apart, some of these families could live 50 miles from the school their kid attends. Just doesn't work as well as it might look on paper.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby ndlionsfan » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:20 pm

scruffy wrote:I serve on a budget committee for a school board. Our school has about 35 kids per class.

That is far from being a small school. If you ever live out in rural ND your perception migh change a bit.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Sat Feb 27, 2010 2:03 pm

I'm with you and I hate to see them close but the math is the math and I'm looking at it from an efficiency point of view and long term it won't get any better. It's like back in the 70's when everyone wanted to save the family farm....they couldn't do it.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby old#63 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:40 pm

Scruffy, your argument doesn't hold water. If you go to ND DPI and look up per pupil costs of education you will find Fargo, with the largest student population of any district in the state, has a per pupil cost of about $9600 per student. You don't get into a significantly higher cost than that until you get to schools that have less than 100 kids K-12. That is 8 or 9 kids per class, not the 30-35 you are advocating. Math is math.
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Re: When is a school too small?

Postby scruffy » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:04 am

Good point.. I was just going to post on the cost per student. Most larger schools (with the exception of Fargo) could absorb more students. In my town our public high school once had an enrollment of around 1150 now has 850 and we have three smaller high schools within a 25 minute drive that we could absorb and we'd have to add very little staff. That would bring the cost per student average down and thus be more efficient. A couple of other things that make the cost per student misleading is that the larger districts have more students who are developmentally disabled (their cost is much higher) and their salaries and benefits are MUCH higher. There's a reason why most people are trying hard to get hired by a larger district...I realize that due to demographics in this state we can't close a school with less then 35 kids per class. Our studies show that In an ideal world that's the magic number where you start to lose efficiency in some areas . In our neck of the woods I know thats not realistic but I think we still can look at the smallest schools and see if anything could be done.
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