by Rebecca Freer & Erin Hart
Next year’s incoming freshman class will flood the halls of WHS with its unusually large class size of over 550 students. As a result, the WHS student body will exceed 1,900 students, a milestone for the school building.
According to the National Education Association, the optimal classroom size is 15 students. Currently, each class at WHS has an average of about 25 students per classroom, already exceeding the ideal class size, according to information provided by the guidance office.
Teachers and administrators alike prefer smaller classes because numerous students have shown greater achievement in environments with fewer peers, according to greatschools.org. The same source stated that there have been fewer disciplinary problems and an improvement in teaching as a result of class size reduction.
Principal Mr. Peter Renwick said: “Class size might be impacted and larger class sizes are not ideal; we don’t have them for a reason…. If there is a larger class size it is more responsibility for the teacher and less opportunity for the students to participate.”
According to ncte.org as class sizes increase, the student-teacher ratio grows as well. According to the same website, when there are 25 or more students per one teacher, it may be difficult for students to seek one-on-one time with their teachers for extra help. Students may choose to ignore the fact that they do not understand the course material rather than ask questions, which could directly affect their grades and academic success.
Junior Nick Moynihan said that the increased number of incoming freshmen could possibly “affect class sizes and take away one-on-one time with teachers, which is greatly needed.”
According to greatschools.org, students may feel intimidated by larger classes, which could then lead to less participation. Answering questions and actively contributing to class discussions are essential parts of the learning process.
Director of Counseling Ms. Maureen Mazzarese said: “Some classes will be a little bit larger than they used to be…. Class size is such a priority for teaching, but making sure kids have classes is also a priority.”
Along with crowded classrooms, the hallways are likely to be congested with this increase. Any students experience traffic jams in the hallways and stairwells as is.
Sophomore Hannah McLane said, “Already there are too many students in the halls, and with the incoming freshmen, getting to class on time will be even more difficult.”
Other school facilities such as the cafeteria, library and student center could be affected by the increase in students. Even now, the seating and computers in these areas are limited.
With many more students, the ability to choose which classes to take will be also affected.
Renwick said, “Availability of some electives might be impacted as a result of having the increase, but we are trying to schedule in a way that there will as little impact as possible.”
Consquences for Teachers
According to ncte.org, when teachers are faced with large classes and heavy workloads, they do not have the opportunity to teach to their fullest potential and become actively involved in their students’ education.
Said Renwick, “[The increase] has the potential to create more work with grading papers, but I trust that our teachers will rise to the occasion.”
According to greatschools.org, it is also important to consider, not only the number of students per class, but the subject being taught; subjects involving more feedback require more individualized attention.
English Teacher Ms. Aimee Burgoyne explained that she is accustomed to having larger class sizes because that has been the way it has fallen each year with her freshmen classes. She said she prefers smaller classes because it is more individualized and she is able to move the class along more quickly.
However, Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan expressed that the WHS community is fortunate that the student enrollment has grown gradually over the years.
Said Dolan, “As student enrollment has increased, additional staff has been added so that students continue to feel engaged in learning and in their everyday classroom experience.”
Similarly, Mazzarese added that in the past couple of years, there has been an increase in staff, and they are continuing with that.
Said Mazzarese, “We are adding someone in the business department to help with the financial literacy requirement and a couple of other courses.”
Although WHS is going to experience an increase in student population, plans have been put in place to deal with this influx.
Said Mazzarese, “We are going to do our best.”