Education

Class of 2029 to Benefit from Smallest Kindergarten Class Sizes in Years

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LIVINGSTON, NJ – Thanks to a referendum passed several years ago by the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE), the 321 students entering the school system as kindergarteners this fall will benefit from smaller class sizes in 2016-2017 school year.

According to LBOE Business Administrator and Board Secretary Steven K. Robinson’s report at the May 23 LBOE meeting, the Livingston Public Schools (LPS) district will be able to deliver on the inherent promise that the referendum makes to parents and taxpayers by reducing soft bordering and class sizes, while simultaneously coming in under budget for the 2016-17 school year. 

In fact, very few children have been soft boarded for the upcoming school year and many class sizes are hovering around the 17-18 students-per-classroom mark – well under the guidelines, which set class limits at a maximum of 22 students per class.

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Some of the LPS district’s recommendations recently discussed and agreed upon by principals at the affected schools include adding a first-grade section at Burnet Hill Elementary School, a second-grade section at Harrison Elementary School and a fifth-grade section at Collins Elementary School.

Following a thorough analysis, Robinson and his team have recommended a total of 116 new sections—one section less than the number originally projected and budgeted for prior to the start of the current school year.

Some movement is still anticipated over the next few months, when as many as 60 more students may need to be placed due to those relocating into the area or those moving from neighborhood to neighborhood within the township. However, this movement is considered nominal when compared to other years, according to the LBOE.

The Livingston district looks at several factors before making well-thought-out placement determinations. For instance, every attempt to keep siblings in the same school is consistently made. Special consideration is also given to children already involved in activities and special programs at certain schools. 

According to the LBOE, the LPS district prides itself on getting to know the needs of individual students as well as possible so that, once placed, future decisions regarding class size and placement of students entering any post-kindergarten class can be weighed against the available resources and existing student-body needs.  

Robinson noted that “home resales” is the item that most impacts, which schools will have the greatest demand, though this changes from year to year. 

“A couple of years ago, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School was the hot school,” he said. “Burnet Hill has been the most popular for the last few years. But communities are always turning over so right now it’s Collins Elementary that’s the most in demand and we’re not sure which section of the township will be next.”

As movement occurs and neighborhoods with school-aged children turn over, schools that were once filled to capacity may open up and spots may become available. If spots do open up, the LPS uses the prior year’s lottery lineup as a guide to offer those on that list the opportunity to move their child to the school closest to their residence, if they choose to do so.

“I honestly think the soft border policy is a good policy,” said Robinson. “Although it’s painful to some people, overall people don’t argue about it. Again, the ultimate goal is to keep class sizes at a reasonable level and this policy accomplishes that.”

Letters regarding placement of students for the 2016-17 school year are expected to be sent out sometime this week to parents of students entering the LPS system.

For questions on student placement, please contact Registrar Amy Ennis at 973-535-8000 ext. 8002 or at aennis@livingston.org.

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