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School cuts mean bigger classes, no crisis

Original post made on Mar 12, 2008

Classes will be larger next year but Palo Alto schools should largely escape proposed state budget cuts without the "horrific" fallout in other districts, school officials said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 1:14 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 9:37 am

Good luck to new residents then, as they will probably have to drive their kids across town to the one spot available in their grade level and it may even mean new residents having to put their kids into two different schools.

I hope realtors take note of this.


Posted by The fall out looms large., a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 12, 2008 at 11:50 am

Shame on Arnold. Slashing the education budget will worsen California's already pitiful public schools. I'm disgusted.


Posted by Intra-district transfer family, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

"Usually the district maintains an average class size across schools, but may call students back to neighborhood schools as it pushes the size limit at particular sites, he said."
Does this imply that students who are permanently transferred to a non-neighborhood school can be transferred back against their will? We like where we are. Our second-grader has established friendships and we're part of the school's community. Being called back to our neighborhood school would be very disruptive.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2008 at 11:53 am

The larger class sizes will reduce the number of families with kids at multiple schools - not increase it. Currently, many new residents end up with kids at multiple schools or far away from their neighborhood. Hence the disclaimer on real estate ads about not being able to guarantee school availability.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 1:22 pm

PA Mom

I think the fact that Skelly is getting at is that the classes will be 20, not 17,18 0r 19, as is at present. This means that until every single classroom in the district is at 20, there will be no increases. This means that if say a 2nd grader moves into a certain neighborhood, the only space in a 2nd grade class may be two miles one way or 3 miles another away from home. At present, there is usually a couple of spaces available throughout the district.

I heard him mention in a speech somewhere that this may mean that for a kindergartner who did not enroll by the guarantee period in Jan/Feb, it may mean that on the first day of school there will be an overall holding area (or some jargon) in say Churchill for all kindergartners who were late enrolling and as they find space in the classrooms from the no show-ers (there are always some in kindergarten) they can then allot the spaces to those in the holding area. He used fancier language than mine, but he is saying that he does not want the same thing that happened this year at Fairmeadow whereby they had to open a new kindergarten room because of the high number of enrollees and then a large number didn't show, presumably because they went private.

This in effect will mean it more difficult for new comers to get into their neighborhood school and for new siblings to get into the same school.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Parent - really??? Every single Classroom????

So, lets take a hypothetical. How will (for example) the Spanish Immersion classrooms populate their upper grade classrooms at the expanded class size of 24 at grades 4&5? Where do the biliterate at grade level kids suddenly come from? If the class strands in immersion programs haven't been at 24 all along, where do suddenly the extra immersion ready kids come from?

Or lets say for the sake of argument that we're looking at this situation 3 years from now. Where does MI get its 24 kids for 4th grade? (While preserving required mix ratios, etc)

In actuality - What we'll see is that our fancy little language speciality programs are shielded from the increases class sizes.

Now I'd like to know if the parents in these program are going to be writing checks to PAUSD to keep these programs cost neutral, because the teacher/kid ratio is NOT going to be cost neutral in these programs.

Oh yes, and what if these programs are falling below the class sizes - will they classrooms be shutdown? Or will they be allowed to continue to suck an unfair share of resources?

Skelly????


Posted by jeez, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm

In the above posts, we find more examples of Palo Alto residents who can't do anything but complain about everything.

Our school district will be basically unscathed by the horrendous budget cuts contemplated by the state, yet some still would rather complain.

Shaking my head in disbelief.


Posted by The fall out looms large, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 12, 2008 at 11:57 pm

Oh, the irony!

Dear Jeez--
Do you realize that you're complaining... about other people complaining?!

To respond to your comment: I was the second poster. I stand by my remarks. You're right: Palo Alto is lucky to be doing okay. Doesn't mean though that our schools won't feel significant cuts in the future. Look at Alameda: because of the budget deficit, it will have to cut almost its entire highschool athletic program.

Complaining *is* important. (Can you imagine if no one spoke up?)People have a legitimate reason to be concerned, and I hope people continue to voice their displeasure.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 9:02 am

I am the first poster here and although I agree it sounds as if I am complaining for the sake of complaining, I do see a legitimate cause to complain. As a reasonably longterm resident here I have seen many people move into my neighborhood and have been told by the realtors that their kids will go to the local school or a certain high school, only to find out after they arrive that the only place is across town or at the less desirable high school, and they will be put on the waiting list. They tell me that their realtors always told them that the disclaimer on the advertising flyers was for legal reasons, but that they were sure there would be room. Sometimes, people even tell me that they checked with the local school before signing their contract only to be told later that the space had just gone a few days before.

People do move to Palo Alto for the schools. They are under the impression that the local school will always have room for their child and often get really upset when this is not the case. I had some new neighbors during the last school year and they ended up with their kids in two different schools, something that they did not expect. The good news for them is that they now have their kids in the same school, but for the major part of a school year they did not.

Sometimes, complaining is just empty noise. Sometimes complaining actually brings out an awareness of a problem that the rest of us do not want to talk about because "it doesn't affect me". I am actually on various pta committees and so my empty noise does get heard by those in the right places as well as those in the community from airing my views here. I could write letters to the newspapers, but that now seems so old fashioned when we have a more modern and easier technology here that does a similar job.


Posted by Patrick, a resident of Ohlone School
on Mar 13, 2008 at 9:11 am

If every resident of Palo Alto kicked in $50 the deficit would go away.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 9:40 am

Correct - we dodge a bullet - this time. We pay a smaller price than most (slightly increased class sizes) so we should all go back to gleefully putting our heads in the sand on the issue. No.

FYI, I'm not complaining about larger class sizes - I think its an appropriate solution for this issue at this time.

However, Jeez - I suspect you may be the beneficiary of one of the immersion programs - which will be shielded even from that minor impact. And so perhaps you'd rather we didn't point this out?

There are a select few who will continue to enjoy not only enriched curriculum, a rich infusion of financial resources (even in these dire times of financial stress on the California education system everywhere), but also a comfortable and protected cocoon of virtually guaranteed small class sizes.

Because the prerequisite of language bilingual(ness) at grade level creates a barrier to entry at the upper grades - the district is not free to use those classrooms to help manage enrollment, student teacher ratios, etc. Those classrooms are locked in at the lower student per classroom numbers of the lower grade levels.

And heaven forbid we should point out to the emperor that he has no clothes on.

(can you say - cost neutral?)


Posted by Different Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 9:45 am

These points are wonderful things to point out to Board members when you write to them. The idea that immersion classes are locked in from the lower elementary grades is something that has never been mentioned here before, as far as I am aware.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2008 at 10:34 am

We have a different board and a different superintendent then when the SI was implemented and MI was approved. I think the majority of the BOE and definitely Dr. Skelly is not afraid to make hard choices if they are for the benefit of the whole district.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2008 at 1:10 pm

and the less desirable high school is:.......


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Get rid of the 20 kids/room thing. It is a disaster for the district. Go back to 28-30 kids per classroom. Get rid of SI and MI, becasue they are also disasters. The people who love these disasters are the parents who are lucky enough to benefit from them (no surprise!).

Give us back our neighborhood schools, period. No more boutiques!

This turkey has been overcooked. Time to just throw it out the window. PAUSD will come back strong, once it has happened.


Posted by Different High School, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Parent of PAHS

Yes, I know, which is why I didn't say which. In my experience, unfortunately there are people moving here for one particular high school and complain when they don't get in.

This is less desirable from their point of view, not mine. In actual fact I am in total agreement with you. I am a Paly parent myself.


Posted by jeez, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 13, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Parent of another Palo Alto neighborhood:

Wrong! My kids never were in "choice" programs or whatever they may be called.

My oldest kid had 27-28 kids per class from elementary school through most classes in middle and high school.

My youngest child was in classes with only 20 kids per class in elementary school.

I did not see any difference in the quality of education they got. Both the same.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2008 at 4:50 pm

My daughter was also in kindergarten and the lower grades with 27 or 28 others. She was always ahead in reading and math and the teacher paid her very little attention. In fact, because she could read well I never paid her reading very much attention as she preferred to read to herself from preschool ages. Anyway, when I did hear her read aloud in about third grade, I was shocked. She read all the important words out loud and ignored the important little words that makes a sentence make sense, the prepositions, etc. Consequently, her writing was always very bad because she left those words out too, not knowing that it didn't make sense. When I spoke to her about reading to her teacher she told me only those who couldn't read well read aloud to teachers on a regular basis and she rarely did. Then I understood the benefits of small classes.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2008 at 5:54 pm

There are people who move here for Gunn. I date it back to that Newsweek survey where Gunn came in around 50 and Paly at 300 nationwide. I think the ranking thing is fairly ridiculous--percentage of kids taking AP test, but not taking into consideration the pass rate or size of the school.

Paly students take slightly fewer AP classes and have a slightly higher pass rate. Which says nothing, really, about which school is better suited for a particular child.

I like smaller classes--and I think it is kids performing average and above who benefit the most from them. The teacher has time to pay attention to them instead of having to focus solely on the kids who are underperforming. Even when your kid performs above grade level, there are some areas that are more challenging than others. It's nice to know where the potential issues are as well as potential strengths instead of sort of a blanket smiling dismissal because your kid doesn't have problems.

The shrinking immersion classroom problem has been discussed here, actually. It's just more pertinent than it was before. Immersion programs have big attrition issues--in Canada, which has had immersion programs for 40 years, they have attrition rates of 40 to 50 percent. Poor performers drop out. It's kind of immersion's dirty little secret. Basically, you see a grade 2/3 score drop and then the kids catch up. Or so we're told. Actually, the bottom performers drop out, so you end up with a self-selected group of higher performers, the numbers backfilled by fluent speakers.

My latest fun fact on all of this is that if you do take your kid out of an immersion class, don't expect him or her to retain the language. Young kids learn languages faster than do adults, but they also lose them faster.

We'd get better results if we started the languages later--around third grade after native language literacy has been established.

In other words, the Yew Cheung approach where the kids get an hour of Mandarin a day, but do their other work in English is actually a pretty good idea. Quite possibly better than immersion if there's less of a drop-out issue, just not trendy and glamorous in the same way.


Posted by Ohlone Alumni Parent, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I have recently moved from Palo Alto; I do not miss the nastiness of exchanges around Ohlone and the MI program. There is a very ugly side to this community. Ohlone was the best thing that ever happened to my child and it pains me to see the school get trashed.


Posted by Reporter, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 10:27 am

The cuts have affected the number of people per class. Voice wrote an article about how it affected Paly: Web Link


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Spanish classes in Paly and JLS are now 35sh.


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