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Eight classes too large by 1 to 3 students at Bemidji Area Schools

BEMIDJI—A few Bemidji Area Schools classrooms have exceed their recommended size. But only by a few students.

Six elementary classes and two high school classes have one to three more students than asked for by School Board policy. No Bemidji Middle School pods exceed their recommended size, according to documents supplied at Monday's School Board meeting.

District administrators are required to tell School Board members about any classes that exceed their recommended size. Staff deliver a report about class sizes to the board twice per school year.

The recommended sizes are as follows: 25 pupils for kindergarten through second-grade classrooms; 30 pupils for grades 3-5 classrooms; 130 students for middle school "pods"; and 35 students for high school classes. Board policy makes exceptions for specialized classes like physical education, music, and art.

"Most all of our classes are well within reason," Superintendent Jim Hess told board members at a meeting Monday night. "We are in observance of those guidelines very carefully."

According to district staff, one kindergarten class at Paul Bunyan Elementary, one first-grade class at Northern Elementary, one second-grade class at Solway Elementary, one fourth-grade class at Horace May Elementary, two fifth-grade classes at Horace May all exceed the stipulated size, but none by more than three students. There are 102 elementary classrooms at Bemidji Area Schools.

At Bemidji High School, a college writing class and an algebra class both have one more students than asked for by the board policy.

The figures presented at Monday's meeting are approximately in line with previous sets: 11 classes were reported to be too large last October, and nine received the same designation last spring.

Last spring, Hess said this school year should be the last where Bemidji Area Schools classrooms bump into the upper limit. School district officials expect to open Gene Dillon Elementary, which will be for the district's fourth- and fifth-graders, by the 2018-19 school year.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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