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Lodi Unified School District board postpones decision on class sizes

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:20 pm, Wed Apr 17, 2013.

Lodi Unified School District board member Ron Heberle stirred up a hornet's nest Tuesday when he proposed reducing all kindergarten though 12th-grade classes by one student.

Heberle's motion to reduce class sizes was defeated by a 5-2 vote, but it will return for discussion at tonight's special board meeting where trustees will prioritize what is most important for the district's future.

"The classroom is absolutely the foundation of what we're here for," Heberle said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

While trustees and teachers argued for reducing class sizes, a majority of board members said the topic should wait until tonight, when it can be discussed and prioritized while talking about many other district issues.

Heberle argued that Lodi Unified's budget is projected to be $6.8 million higher in the 2013-14 fiscal year than it is this year. Reducing class sizes by one would cost only $2.2 million, Heberle said.

A majority of teachers wanted class-size reduction emphasized in kindergarten through third grade because a positive student experience in their early years sets the tone for the future, several teachers said.

Chief Business Officer Tim Hern said that Lodi Unified still faces a $4.3 million budget deficit for the next school year, and it would become a $6.5 million deficit if class sizes are reduced by one student.

The average class size for kindergarten through third grade has increased in recent years from 25 students per class to 29. Trustees agreed that it would be better to focus on the lower grades.

The issue will be discussed at tonight's special meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the James Areida Education Support Center, 1305 E. Vine St., Lodi.

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