DES opens with largest class size ever

Delano Elementary School (DES) is opening this year with an average class size of 24.5 students — the largest class size the school has ever had, according to DES Principal Darren Schuler.

He brought this news to the Delano School Board Monday, Aug. 27.

At the meeting, the School Board also took up other business. Here are some meeting highlights.



Schuler said DES had a net gain of about 20 students over the summer — bringing total enrollment to 829 as of Aug. 27. Kindergarten enrollment is the largest that Delano Public Schools has ever had.

One hundred seventy six students are enrolled in kindergarten, 150 in first grade, 162 in second grade, 178 in third grade and 160 in fourth grade.  Three students have enrolled at the last minute, thus changing some of these figures, Schuler said.

Smallest class sizes at DES are in first grade, with an average of 21.4 students per class. The largest class sizes are in second grade, with an average of 28 students per class. Average class sizes in the other grades are kindergarten, 22 students; third grade, 25.4 students and fourth grade, 24.5 students.

Enrollment increases also have occurred at Delano Middle School (DMS), said Principal Renee Klinkner. Last year enrollment stood at 705 students, and the number has risen to 724 this year. Average class sizes are 30 students in fifth grade and 31 students in sixth grade. Average class sizes for seventh and eighth graders range from 25 to 32, depending upon the student block.

School Board member Peter Brasket noted that the School Board cut the number of elementary school teachers as a belt tightening measure after the defeat of the operating levy referendum last November. He thought this had something to do with the increase in class sizes.



Hot lunches now will be served in the Community Education Building, said Community Education Director Diane Johnson. Parents have been requesting hot lunches, so Community Ed has hired a cook to work 30 hours per week. Menus will be similar to those served at DES.

At DES volunteers have planted a new butterfly garden in front of the school, Principal Schuler said. A $1,000 donation from Woodridge Church helped pay for the project, and Woodridge provided some of the volunteers.

Schuler noted that the church has been meeting at DES, and the congregation has been wondering what it could do to help the school. He said the garden would help second graders with studies in their butterfly science unit. The garden will take awhile to get going. It should really start to bloom in two to three years.

Also new at DES is programming paid for by the Delano Healthy Kids Healthy Community Grant, Schuler said. DES is working with Allina and Ridgeview Hospitals to hit upon childhood obesity and educate families about better living and nutrition. Activities that are coming up are demonstrations on how to cook healthy and affordable meals, unplugged week, a Kids 5K and a community triathlon.

At DMS, students and teachers will find a new computer lab located in the school media center, said Principal Klinkner. The old Macintosh computers on wheels could no longer be resuscitated.  School staff asked for a new computer lab rather than laptops to replace the old Macs.

DMS now has 150 Nook e-readers for seventh and eighth graders to use in language arts studies.



DES Principal Schuler said Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) scores have been trending upward for his students.

Reading proficiency scores have risen from 87.6 percent in 2006–07 to 94 percent in 2011– 12. Math proficiency scores have risen from 90.5 percent in 2006– 07 to 94.3 percent in 2011–12.



Joe Vieau, assistant principal at DHS, explained how the Minnesota Department of Education is rating schools, now that Minnesota Schools have been given a waiver from No Child Left Behind. The ratings are designed to hold schools accountable for their performance.

Title One schools earn designations according to how they compare to other schools in the state in the performance ratings, Vieau said. Other schools that are not Title One schools get performance ratings but not the designations. Delano Elementary School is a Title One school, but the middle school and high school are not.

If DHS were a Title One school it would be designated as a Reward School, meaning that it ranked among the top 15 percent of schools in Multiple Measures Ratings (MMR). DMS would be eligible for designation as a Celebration School because it ranked between the top 15 percent of schools and the top 40 percent.

Meanwhile, DES, which is a Title One School, is eligible to apply for Celebration School designation. Its MMR ranking came in slightly lower than the top 15 percent.

The new performance ratings are for 2010– 11. When the ratings come in for 2012, the school district will look at what it can do to improve its schools, Vieau said.

The MMR rating takes into consideration student proficiency on certain standard tests, student growth from grade to grade, graduation rate and the gap in achievement between the overall student population and at risk student groups. In Delano the at risk groups are special education students and students eligible for free or reduced price lunches. In other school districts at risk students would include students of color and English language learners.