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Class size and budget issues dominate school board session

Large class sizes across the Hillsboro School District prompted three parents of kindergarteners to speak before the school board during a meeting Tuesday night at district headquarters.

In turn, each parent asked for the same thing.

“I’d like more teachers,” said Kristen Martin, the mother of twins — a boy and girl who attend afternoon kindergarten classes at Imlay Elementary School.

Martin said her children are in a class of 31 students. She asked if there was a way to augment classroom instruction despite a smaller budget.

She also noted Oregon’s poor record for high school graduation and said it was a concern for her children.

“I want to do everything possible to make sure the high school graduation of the class of 2026 is 100 percent,” Martin said.

Superintendent Mike Scott said that while he agreed smaller class sizes are desirable, lowering classes by just one student across the district would cost $1.7 million.

As of Tuesday, the district had 375 more students than projected by 2012-13 budget numbers, said Debbie Ashley, assistant superintendent. She noted district officials are conducting daily student counts at every school “so we know where the hot spots are.”

The district budgeted for a 30-to-1 ratio of students per teacher, Ashley said, but many classrooms across the district currently exceed that number.

According to Ashley, fluctuating student population at the beginning of the school year prompted staffing shifts and the use of discretionary funds to add staff.

Adam Stewart, the district’s chief financial officer, said a pending Oct. 1 enrollment report will have the highest student count of the entire year. Stewart expects to lose 175 to 200 students over the course of the school year to early graduation and dropouts, which will alleviate some of the overcrowding — especially at the high schools, where Scott said class sizes are “monstrous.”

In other business during the work session, the board heard a report from technology director Don Wolff, who outlined the addition of pupil and parent portals to the district’s new student database.

Synergy by Edupoint is a student information system that teachers use to record student data. The student and parent portals allow access to information from a computer or mobile device so families can monitor student progress. Student privacy is maintained through password-protected security.

Teachers began using Synergy this year. The system is available for high schools and middle schools. Elementary schools will be added next year.

The portals will be activated Oct. 1, Wolff said, adding that individual schools are responsible for contacting parents and making them aware of the system’s availability.

“The core function of Synergy is student information,” he said.

Features enabled with the Oct. 1 launch will include school calendars, attendance, class schedule, health information, report cards and class websites, where students and parents can view class-specific information, such as homework assignments and upcoming events.

Several board members asked about the user interface. Board member Wayne Clift wondered how time-consuming frequent data entry would be for teachers.

“It would be great if it was so good that they are personally motivated to use it rather than having to twist their arms,” Clift said.

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