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Small Schools, Small Class Size

Original post made by Ed Buff, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2007

PAUSD recommends that its elementary schools have between 340-450 students. We’ve heard all about the importance of small class size, but what about small school size? Is there an advantage to keeping a school’s population small? Aside from the social experience, do you think it makes a difference in a child’s education? Does it translate into better test results?

Comments (9)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 10, 2007 at 9:02 am

It is all down to perspective. In a community where the school campuses were designed for 500+ students, where there is enough office space, multi purpose space, parking for more teachers, bigger play areas, etc. etc. then a child's well being is not impacted by the size of the school. In these very large schools, kindergarten rooms, for example, are positioned close to one another, with their own play area and their own bathrooms and they can feel like a school within a school and the overall school size is not a big factor.

But, and it is a big but, that is not the case in our schools. Too many of our elementary schools have not got these luxuries and it will impact our schools. Palo Verde, for example, is one of the smallest schools and it just doesn't have room to grow. There is limited parking for teachers and the teachers' lounge area and office space is being used already for various teaching purposes. The multi purpose room cannot fit one grade level with parents for any presentation in a comfortable manner. The playing field is often divided up so that certain grades get the opportunity to play on certain days. The play structure is all in one area and gets too crowded. The lunch tables for the classes in the portables are squashed together. Parents volunteer to provide noon art and noon board games to ease the crowding in the playground at lunch time. Traffic to and from the school is really only bad on Wednesdays as we have a unique early/late reading program on the other days, but traffic is a concern because there is no off road drop off point, just a wider lay by.

For these sort of reasons, our schools cannot grow. Does it affect the overall learning experience for the kids? Probably not. But a bigger school will affect the overall well being of the kids and their elementary experience will be impacted.

We need another elementary school in Palo Alto. We also need another middle and high school. Our school population is growing and showing no signs of stopping. Class size will not help the problem in the long term, so why do a short term solution to a long term problem?
Lets find a solution to this problem in a far sighted way and do some serious problem solving.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2007 at 7:59 am

I must be simple minded, because I see no problem with adding second stories to the schools..then just staggering lunch and recess times so that k-2 takes recess and lunch at a different time from 3-5. overcrowded lunch and recess time!

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 8:46 am

When my kids were at a PAUSD school, I suggested to the principal that we have staggered lunch times so that grades 1-2 were not getting stomped on the playground by the older kids, and playground monitors could better watch out for bullying, which was rampant. The principal's response was something to the effect of "blah blah blah teacher break blah blah infringe on teacher's rights blah blah not feasible blah blah too complicated."

Although other schools do it, so who knows if this was a complete lie or actually based on some agreement with the teachers' union.

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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 11, 2007 at 8:52 am

Addison staggers their lunch schedule with some overlap - it makes a big difference on the playground. Duveneck does not stagger their schedule - try driving by at lunch time, it is really tough for the kids to have enough space to play.

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 8:54 am

As I suspected, a complete lie. This from a school that has spent thousands addressing and then readdressing the bullying problem with little success. Good grief. Glad we left.

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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 11, 2007 at 9:03 am

Natasha - it probably was not truly a lie, but a reflection of the principal's philoshophy. Some put the kids needs first and some put the teachers first (the best balance the kids, teachers and parents).

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Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:04 am

Maybe. But since the principal told me she was NOT ALLOWED to do it, I think of it as a lie. I wish principals had more accountability around here.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2007 at 10:08 am


Different schools round here have different clout with the unions (or the unions have different clout with different schools). I have discussed this with one principal who told me that his personal opinion was that the teachers should be able to integrate together with each other as colleagues at least once in the school day and he would not like staggered lunches for that reason, among others.

The other reasons were that often the field was taken up by pe classes and other outdoor teaching stations which would make scheduling difficult and others which I can't remember.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2007 at 12:50 pm


I don't think you can just add a second story to most of the elementary schools here, so it would be new buildings.

At which point, why don't we just reopen one of the three elementary school buildings already in Palo Alto? I know the district is squawking about the money, but that must be the easiest solution long-term. I don't really see the population going down in the next 20 years.

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