Brainerd School Board: flex zone approved | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Brainerd School Board: flex zone approved

Posted: December 9, 2013 - 10:11pm

An effort to level out elementary class sizes in Brainerd could be in effect as soon as next school year.

At the Brainerd School Board meeting Monday, officials unanimously approved implementing flex zones to identify students who would be eligible to have the option to switch elementary schools.

School board members held no further discussion Monday on the topic, which came forward after an in-depth presentation at a Long Range Planning Commission meeting in November.

The flex zone plan has been in the works for more than a year by school officials in effort to level out the class sizes among each of the 100 kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms in the district.

The average class size is around 24, but if you walk into any one of those 100 classrooms, you can see anywhere from 29 to 21 students, said Steve Lund, director of business services for the district.

“We want class sizes more even across the district,” he said at a previous committee meeting. “We think by doing that, more families will come and stay (in the district) if they know that class size.”

Lund said officials want to give parents who meet eligibility requirements the option to move their child to a school with smaller class sizes.

Ultimately, it’s up to the parent if they want to switch.

School officials mapped out nine flex zones for the district. In those zones, 142 students have been identified for this year that would have been eligible to switch schools. That number can change from year to year.

Each year starting in June or July, district officials study enrollment trends to identify what classes will be large. Then, officials could compile a list of students who are eligible to switch schools. Officials will ask families if they want to switch, focusing on the kindergarten classes first, as well as new students to the district. It will be a random system in selecting which families to offer it to first.

There are certain eligibility requirements:

• For students without siblings (to not split families).

• Does not change transportation status with bussing.

• By district invitation only.

• It’s optional for those invited families.

Very few students would be moved in a given year.

“I can’t imagine moving even 10 percent of that number (the 142 identified students) in a year,” Lund said at a previous committee meeting. “It’s just about having the option.”

He added, “This won’t drastically change student population in any building.”

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.