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PE Setting Minimum For Most PECHS Classes

PRINCE EDWARD — Changing times will mean some class size changes at Prince Edward County High School. Gone, come next year, will be many of the classes with fewer than six students.

The new directive approved at the May school board meeting won’t impact special education courses, GED/ASAEP, self-contained or resource classes. Some lower enrollment courses may continue to be offered through Virtual Virginia, an on-line option, or by combining different levels of a course in the same classroom—such as advanced levels of foreign language.

“…It’s a way of becoming more efficient without hindering the academic needs of the students,” Dr. Smith told The Herald.

In some cases, he offered, if they have more than one section of a given class and one has a large and the other a small number of students, they can sometimes balance the numbers across the two classes.

Several examples of low enrollment AP courses listed in the school board’s May packet, for example, include English (four), statistics (three), chemistry (one), and history (five) are possible candidates for the Virtual Virginia program.

“This was an attempt to become a little more efficient in scheduling without causing academic difficulty for students in their programs,” Dr. Smith said.

Heather Edwards, a parent speaking in the public comment portion of the meeting, said she would really like to see the school board vote on the maximum class sizes at the high school.

“From a parent perspective, from a student perspective, that’s pretty important, too,” she said.

She noted, “Not all of you, probably, have been involved in online learning before. It requires, in my experience…a huge amount of maturity, of independent learning ability, of self-motivation. You need to think about who is gonna be in that classroom as the teacher in charge. (It’s) not going to be someone with an accreditation for the class that’s being taught online. My guess is it will be an aide, perhaps someone who’s not endorsed in any particular area to teach because it would be a low priority.”

Edwards told the board that she only teaches face-to-face French classes at Longwood, adding. “But even in those classes it’s a struggle to keep students off their screens, because when they’re on their screens in my classroom, they’re not thinking about my class. They’re doing Facebook, they’re looking up YouTube videos, they’re doing all sorts of things they shouldn’t be doing. And they’re 18 to 22-year olds,” she said.

The school board late in the meeting discussed setting a maximum class size. Dr. Peter Gur reflected visiting several classes at the high school, where it appeared that every class had about 24-25 students. He also offered that they didn’t see any classes with less than ten. Establishing a maximum amount, he said, “is a good idea.”

Board member Susan Lawman offered that it would depend on the subject, while board chairman Russell Dove added that they can set a minimum, they can also set a maximum.

The superintendent would later tell to The Herald that state standards have maximum numbers in most of the core area classes. “So in many cases,” he said, “that’s already in effect.”

On the issue of Virtual Virginia, Dove stated, “You know I’ve taken online classes. You do have to be structured…It’s a different ballgame, but it can be done,” he said.