Questions about class size? Many people discuss this topic in reference to the number of students enrolled in each class, and they are right. But, class sizes also refer to the size of the space designated for students.
Have you ever wondered how the size of a classroom is determined? Does the size of the district or campus effect how large or small classrooms will be? Is classroom design a haphazard system or have rules and guidelines been established to govern the process?
Questions asked about instructional space sizes seem like such a benign topic, but actually elicit concerns from parents, teachers and board members.
Parents may ask how much space their child deserves in the classroom. Their concern stems from overcrowding, proximity of children to each other during the cold and flu season and the likelihood that their children will get head lice. Class sizes can affect solutions for discipline infractions and allegations of bullying. Parents will ask for a complete separation of students when these situations happen in the classroom.
Teachers may want to know size requirements to deliver effective instruction for all students. Their concerns could span topics from having sufficient space to deliver individualized and small group instruction to having sufficient storage spaces for instructional materials and supplemental resources. Since Response to Intervention activities are required, teachers are always looking for creative ways to include more computers in their classroom without creating safety hazards.
Board members may hear of these concerns from parents and teachers and wonder whether the district is providing adequate instructional spaces to meet the needs of the students and teachers.
All of the aforementioned are bringing their concerns to the Superintendent for answers. Superintendents should have a general knowledge of classroom sizes, but specific and detailed responses most often need to be researched. Where can the Superintendent obtain information and resources to provide answers and ease concerns about classroom sizes provided in your schools?
Well it is set forth by law in Chapter 61 as part of the Texas Education Code. You can go the website and read the guidelines for yourself or simply review the concise reference chart below.
HERE’S THE BREAKDOWN…
This information will help you understand the minimum requirements mandated by the state of Texas. My goal is to provide you with clear and concise information when answering the question of classroom size and the standards that govern them.
§61.1036. School Facilities Standards for Construction on or after January 1, 2004.
- EXCEEDING CLASSROOM LIMIT: A district may submit a request to TEA for Kindergarten through grade four classrooms that exceed the 22:1 limit. This can be done with approval from the Board of Trustees within 30 days after the class size was exceeded.
- IF SMALL CLASS SIZES: May have science classrooms/laboratories that provide a minimum of 41 square feet per student but not less than 700 square feet total at the elementary school level, a minimum of 50 square feet per student but not less than 950 square feet total at the middle school level, and a minimum of 58 square feet per student but not less than 1,100 square feet total at the high school level. (See standards (d)(5)(C)(iii)(IV)).
- IF SMALL CLASS SIZES: May have science classrooms that provide a minimum of 32 square feet per student, and they may have science laboratories that provide a minimum of 36 square feet per student but not less than 600 square feet total at the elementary school level, a minimum of 38 square feet per student but not less than 700 square feet total at the middle school level, and a minimum of 42 square feet per student but not less than 800 square feet total at the high school level. (See standards (d)(5)(C)(iv)(VI)).
- STORAGE ROOM: If hazardous or vaporous chemicals are to be used in the science laboratories or science laboratory/classrooms, a separate chemical storage room shall be provided. The chemical storage room shall be separate from, and shall not be combined as part of a preparation room or an equipment storage room; however, the chemical storage room may be located so that access is through a preparation room or equipment storage room. The chemical storage room shall be secure to prevent access to chemicals by students. One chemical storage room may be shared among multiple laboratories or laboratory classrooms. (See standards (d)(5)(C)(v)).
- SPECIFIC SAFETY FEATURES REQUIRED: Built-in fume hood; built-in eye/face wash; built-in safety shower; ventilation system requirements; exhaust system in all classrooms, 6’ of horizontal workspace/student; emergency shut-off controls (See standards (d) 5)(C)(vi)).
- RECOMMENDED SYSTEM: Consider the heat output of computers when designing the ventilation system that serves a computer classroom. (See standards (d) 5)(C)(i)).
- OTHER SPACE REQUIREMENTS: The district should develop design criteria as required to meet educational program needs.
As you can see, classroom sizes are intended to provide optimal spaces so that teachers can effectively deliver instruction and students can learn to the best of their ability. In addition to instructional classroom spaces, support areas are governed by specific guidelines.