Board told high school class sizes increasing New procedures disclosed for student trips overseas

November 10, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Howard County's high school classes grew larger again this year, but the number of students in elementary and middle school classes remained almost unchanged, the county school board learned last night.

The board also was told of new procedures designed to improve supervision of school-sponsored trips overseas. The changes were made in response to a dispute over the punishment of five Wilde Lake High School students who were caught drinking wine during a trip to France last spring.

In the class-size report, board members and school officials expressed concern about the continuing rise in high school class sizes.

In eight of the nine high school subject areas, the average classes are larger this year than last. For example, the average size of a math class rose 1.4 students this year to 26.1, and English classes increased by about one student to 26.7.

Thirty-one percent of the county's high school English, science, social studies, math and foreign language classes have more than 30 students this year. Four years ago, only 14 percent of classes in those subject areas had more than 30 students, said board member Sandra French.

"I'm not happy with this," Ms. French said. "I think we should have more teachers in the high schools" and in elementary and middle schools, too.

The increased high school class sizes were caused by both the switch to a four-period day at six of the county's eight high schools and a lack of funding to hire enough teachers, said Eugene L. Streagle, the county's director of high schools.

The four-period schedule permits students to take more academic credits, but teachers typically are not assigned additional classes.

Mr. Streagle said he would continue to work with high schools to improve scheduling procedures and try to reduce the number of classes that have more than 30 students next year.

In elementary schools, the class sizes for reading, math, social studies, health and science remained almost unchanged from last year, averaging between 22 and 25.6 students countywide.

The average middle school class size also was unchanged from last year, remaining at about 23 students per class. The only middle school where the average class size rose was Burleigh Manor, which increased from 25 pupils per class last year to 26 students this year.

In the matter of overseas travel procedures, the board was told that school-sponsored foreign trips now will have more specific guidelines on student conduct, a mandatory orientation for trip leaders and additional instructions on what should be said during student orientation sessions.

"Our more aggressive approach to orientation and training will prevent future problems," said Robert C. Nykyforchyn, a teacher at Howard High School and a member of the school system's foreign travel study committee.

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