Be careful before waiving class size rules

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Administrators in a few West Virginia counties say they are faced, in the early days of this school year, with overcrowding in their schools. Despite having recently built new facilities in Doddridge County, for example, the superintendent says there is not enough classroom space.

Doddridge County Superintendent Rick Coffman says there are three teachers at Doddridge County High School who must take carts with them to teach from available classrooms. And in Barbour and Braxton counties, students who began the school year in one place are now being forced to switch schools – some being bussed to neighboring districts.

Partly as a result of the concerns voiced by these administrators, the West Virginia Board of Education is seeking a waiver that would allow maximum classroom size to expand from 23 to 27 students. But policymakers should take a step back before rewriting the rules.

Teachers have been pushing carts from classroom to classroom for decades. Perhaps administrators need to take a second look at their master schedules in order to ensure room utilization in their very new facilities has been configured wisely. And, in some cases, the blurring of county lines actually allows students to attend schools closer to their homes and shorten bus rides.

Of course, politics, culture and money are at play here. And it is certainly possible that an expansion of classroom size would be better for some students than the other challenges these counties say they are facing. But whatever decision is reached by the folks in Charleston, it should be made based not on playing games, but on what is best for educating kids.

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