How the initiative to reduce classroom size will impact Clarkston schools

CLARKSTON, WA - Members of a group pushing to decrease class sizes in Washington State schools are hoping their initiative makes it on the November ballot.

Reporter Carol Zinke tells us what this could mean for the Clarkston School District.

The proposal calls for smaller classes for every grade level. People behind this effort have already collected the number of required signatures for the initiative to make it on the November ballot, now they're just waiting for those signatures to be verified.

Jim Fry is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for the Clarkston School District. He said the idea of lowering class sizes sounds good, because fewer students in classrooms could help teachers, but it could also cause other problems for schools.

"When we lower class sizes it means we have to increase the number of teachers we have, which also means we have to increase the number of classrooms, buy additional materials, supplies and other things," said Fry.

Even though Washington has some of the largest average class sizes in the nation, Fry said Clarkston isn't one of the highest.

"Class size by itself isn't what will solve all of our problems," said Fry. "It really comes with the power of an awesome teacher in that classroom."

Heights Elementary Principal, Samantha Ogden, agrees with Fry. She said it's not a simple problem to fix. In fact, she said they added another teacher to their staff, to help with crowded classrooms.

"And the district added furniture, curriculum and everything else they need and It's a huge expense," said Ogden." Really the buildings don't have anymore room to add anymore classes."

Lowering class sizes would cost the state billions of dollars in teacher salaries and school construction. The initiative doesn't include a plan for finding that money. Fry said if this initiative passes they'll need to make sure the legislature aids the district with funding to support the decision.

"If this is something that the voters approve, something has got to give," said Fry. "What that is, I don't know, but it will have an impact on another front."

The campaign for this initiative has already raised more than $600,000. Most of that money is coming from the Washington Education Association, which is the statewide teachers union.