Freshman projected to be 270



Next year students may be less likely to be placed in the electives they choose, this comes off the back of RHS losing at least four teachers due to declining enrollment which may lead to a reduction in available classes and shifting class sizes.

Low enrollment at RHS has finally made an impact with RHS’ freshman class estimates to be roughly 270 students – a stark difference from this year’s freshman class of 378. The lower incoming class size also serves as an early indicator of RHS’ shrinking population for at least the next year.

The size of the incoming class, as well as total enrollment, can cause ripples throughout both core and elective programs. These ripples consist of losing teachers, increasing class sizes and changes to elective programs.

According to assistant principal Matt Pipitone, next year RHS will lose four full time teachers. Each core subject, English, Math, Science and History, will lose one full time teacher due to lower enrollment numbers. These teachers will either be let go if they aren’t tenure or force transferred if necessary to another school in the district which is in need of the teacher. However, some of these have been mitigated by this year’s retirements.

This means a couple things for RHS classes and programs. For example class sizes will increase due to fewer sections shrinking the available class pool to just a handful. 

However, this smaller class pool will not impact all classes, such AVID or ELD, which are considered a protected class meaning its size has a set cap. These protected classes have an impact on core classes because if a class such as AVID is capped at 25 students and the average class size is 30. Those 5 students left over have to be dispersed into another section, thus raising the size of another section.

The reason this happens is because there are a finite number of sections taught for a subject. For example English has 10 sections, but some English teachers are shared by AVID meaning even though that teacher could teach English for three sections in a semester they might only teach 1 section of English. So the students who could have been in the other two English sections that are now AVID, must be dispersed into the other English sections taught by other teachers leading to larger classes. 

“The English Department is particularly difficult because a lot of our teachers teach outside of the department in AVID or ELD which have class size protection,” Mowrer said. “And so in another situation they would be teaching 35 kids right now, but they’re teaching 12 kids, so those other 23 kids still need to be taught, they’re just gonna get shoehorned into another class, some other section.”

This means that offered classes may see a rise of a few students on average. According to English teacher Amy Mowrer, the impacts of this small change on any classroom can be major for students. For example, classroom management may be more difficult. Additionally, and arguably more important, student success in a class may drop as more bodies in the room means less time, one-on-one, for any individual student.

“You also have kids who maybe they’re not struggling, they can kind of hang on so long as you can give them the reasonable reteaching that you can offer,” Mower said. ”That kid on the border is more likely to fall below because you weren’t able to intervene as quickly as you would have if you had fewer students in your room.” 

Furthermore, what was just layed out is only the case for one class, so taking into account the loss of four teachers means that every subject, English, Math, Science, History and other classes will be impacted in some way by potentially increased class sizes. 

In addition to classes increasing in size, some classes may begin to be merged into one period due to more class size variability. 

The most recent example of this awkwardness is the Art 3, 4, and AP Art Studio classes which were made into a single period combo class due to the number of Art 3 students being lower than the requirement to offer a full period, thus creating a situation where those students had to be merged into the same period as Art 4 and AP Art Studio. 

“I think the Art 3’s are at a disadvantage in the combo class because I have had to focus on AP and the sustained investigation that both 4 and AP studio work on,” the teacher of the Art combo class, Patti Leong, said. “I don’t think I would do that again because it is too fractured.”

Additionally, the school’s ability to honor or even offer elective choices could suffer. The current scheduling system is built around what classes students are requesting. Meaning if more students request Culinary than Art there will be more sections of Culinary than Art. However, with teachers being let go or force transferred there is more potential to lose teachers who are specialists for certain subjects. Thus those specialty classes may no longer be offered. For example, Valerie Erb is the only teacher to have ever taught Peer Helping at RHS. If a teacher, such as her were to be force transferred, Peer Helping may cease to be offered.

That being said, RHS has begun planning for the future, planning to increase sections for some programs in order to create a magnet for the school.

One of these programs is Theater which usually has three sections, Beginning Drama, Advanced Drama, and Musical Theater in the Spring. But next year is planned to have six sections which many students will be moved into in order to grow the program faster than what would otherwise be possible. 

While this is being done in an effort to create a magnet, it comes with some downsides for students who are not interested in joining Drama, Theater or any of its productions. 

The most major of the immediate downsides is, as previously mentioned, students may have to be funneled into these courses in order to fill the allotted six sections. According to Matt Pipitone, this means that at least some of the roughly 180 students needed to fill the sections will not have the class listed as their first choice.

“If a VAPA class is in your alternate, that’s where the space is going to be, you’re going to go there,” Pipitone said. “Students are not just placed in classes. We look at their alternates. If there’s nothing there that works we have a conversation with the student and say ‘here’s your options what do you want to do?’”