Almanac

Schools - September 8, 2010

More students, less homework as Las Lomitas schools re-open

by Renee Batti

Students at Las Lomitas School had a new principal to greet them, and La Entrada students were able to feast their eyes on a new mural and a recently installed statue representing their school mascot — a leopard — when they returned to their campuses on Aug. 23.

Students at both schools also might have noticed more peers in most of their classes, with class size rising between two and four students at every grade level this year.

Sue Sartor began her tenure as principal of Las Lomitas in Atherton, the Las Lomitas School District's K-3 school. The school's vice principal until last June, Ms. Sartor replaces Gerald Traynor, who retired in June.

Because of budgetary concerns, the district decided not to appoint a new assistant principal at the school, choosing instead to tap the services of "a couple of experienced teachers" to help with some administrative duties, according to District Superintendent Eric Hartwig. "We were able to free (their schedules) up a little bit," he said, adding that the new system "is saving us quite a bit of money."

Mr. Hartwig said the school has seen some physical improvements since June, including new sidewalks and a crosswalk for added safety.

At La Entrada in Menlo Park, which serves students from grades 4 through 8, the new campus artwork is the result of student projects under the guidance of teacher Janet Gregori.

Also at La Entrada, a new policy has gone into effect this school year easing up a bit on the amount of time students are expected to spend on homework. The policy is an attempt "to not have the students and teachers over-work themselves," Mr. Hartwig said. "We want to keep things at a normal, productive pace, and to keep learning fun," he said.

The homework policy sets expectations that range from 45 to 60 minutes a night for fourth-graders, to two hours for eighth-graders.

Go to is.gd/eSiNv (case-sensitive) to see the new La Entrada homework policy.

The larger class sizes are the result of a growing enrollment coupled with the decision by the school board to save money by not replacing a number of teachers who recently left the district, Mr. Hartwig said.

The budget crunch has prompted the board to consider asking voters to approve a new parcel tax. At a recent meeting, board members agreed to explore that possibility by hiring a pollster to test voter opinion.

Projections just before school opened showed enrollment at the two schools growing by 85 students: from 1,234 last school year to 1,319 in the new school year. Las Lomitas enrollment was projected at 644, and La Entrada, at 675, Mr. Harwig said.

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