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  • Writer's pictureNettie Webb

Support Everything Small: Small Businesses and Classes

Today is a celebration of small businesses. We recognize these groups’ significance on the economy, community, and culture.

Small businesses are not the only thing that are more impactful than their larger counterparts, small classes are too. In this post, we dig into the benefits of small classes and why they should be prioritized, not erased, by Lynchburg City Schools.

Currently, Lynchburg City Schools’ school board has proposed to close Sandusky and T. C. Miller Elementary Schools. This decision is in response to a forthcoming 7.2 million dollar deficit, the need for numerous capital improvements throughout the city, and the belief that we are underutilizing our buildings.

Lynchburg City Schools currently has an 80% utilization rate. This increases to 82% if they remove modular units from the elementary schools, and further increases to over 90% if they close the two schools, only expand William Bass, and remove modular units. Based on expert recommendations from MGT Educational Consulting, the district should aim for 85% utilization.

MGT states in the Planning Recommendations that “85% is the ideal utilization to allow for programmatic necessities like special education. counselors, literacy coaches, etc.”

This utilization also keeps classes under 20 students which is vital to student and teacher success.

Since the 90s, researchers have analyzed the impact of class sizes on students, teachers, and schools. Overarchingly, research supports that classes between 15-18 students have significant benefits to all parties.

In their report, researchers concluded that students in the smaller classes have 3 months more quality education in a year, that they were 80% more likely to graduate from high school if they were in small classes until the fourth grade, and that even once they went to larger classes that by eighth grade students in smaller elementary school classes were a year ahead of their counterparts. All of these benefits are even greater for Black and low-income students.

Students are not the only beneficiaries of small classes. Teachers and schools are too.

This should be important to Lynchburg because the second goal in their comprehensive plan is to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Increasing class sizes will not advance that goal. Based on a study of nearly 7,000 educators in Michigan, researchers found that increasing class sizes caused teachers to leave the profession and to be less effective.

At a time when the city is struggling to fill vacancies with qualified teachers, this is the exact opposite of what the district should be doing.

By closing Sandusky and T. C. Miller Elementary Schools and only adding a 10 classroom addition to William Bass Elementary School, utilization will increase to 92-94%. MGT warns that anything above 90% will feel overcrowded and be limited in their use. How is the school board’s decision the best for our students? Why are we increasing class sizes when achievement is already lacking? What does this mean for the future of public education?

The class size increases are not something that will occur in isolation to William Bass Elementary School. That is impossible because nearly 600 students will be displaced.

Every elementary school in Lynchburg will have increases in class sizes. Every elementary school student will have their learning impacted. Every elementary school student will have to deal with more discipline issues. Every elementary school student will receive less individualized attention by teachers. Every elementary school student will be impacted.

This is not what’s best for our students.

This should not be the future of public education in Lynchburg.

Join us in our fight against school closures. Save our Schools is advocating for equitable education for all students no matter their background or zip code.

As the research highlights, marginalized students will be the most impacted by these decisions. Our already large achievement gap will only get bigger. Our students deserve better, our teachers deserve better, our community deserves better. Help us get them what they deserve.

In future posts we will discuss how these utilization rates are low estimates, which students will be most impacted by overcrowding, and potential risks to overall utilization when Lynchburg’s population is trending upwards.

Enjoy the time with your families, follow @Save our Schools - LCS on Facebook to keep up to date, and share these resources with anyone who is concerned about education.

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