Faced with a July 15 deadline, the Saucon Valley School Board met again Tuesday night to address the 2008-2009 proposed final district budget.One question prevailed at the meeting: just what is a good class size?

The easy answer is "small," but school board president Ralph Puerta pointed to the lack of a concrete number with which to aid the board members' discussions.

"I don't know that the district has ever really spelled out where we're trying to go with our class sizes," he commented. "I don't think the board or the district necessarily has a concrete policy on that."

Board Member Sandra Miller explained that back in 1999 and 2000 the school board had decided not to dictate a specific number, although the general aim was to reach a size of 20 students per class in grades one and two and 25 students per class for grades three, four and five.

"They didn't want to restrict the hands of the school board" she explained.

But this non-binding number has allowed debate to continue over several board meetings, bringing talks to a standstill as board members and school district residents alike have made their opinions known.

Board member Edward Inghrim compared Saucon Valley to neighboring Southern Lehigh School District, noting their success with PSSA scores and graduation rates, both of which exceed those at Saucon Valley.

"And it turns out they have 30 kids per class in fourth, fifth and sixth grades," he said.

After a contingent of concerned parents appealed last meeting for lower class sizes, Lower Saucon Township resident Katie Intini spoke to the board about class sizes for her children, who are currently in second and third grades.

The second grade class is among the largest in the elementary school.

"I'm concerned about our class sizes," she said, referring to the possibility of not replacing a retiring fourth grade teacher. "My thought philosophy was if you cut one (teacher) for this year, you're going to have to hire two for next year."

As it stands now, the three uppermost grades in the elementary have 25 students per class. But continued conservative budgeting could raise that number over the next couple of years should the school board choose not to hire new teachers.

In the meantime, the board faces decisions regarding its 2008-2009 budget which must be made by July 15.

In other business at the meeting, along with the appointment of Inghrim as Treasurer for the upcoming year, several grants were awarded to various school district programs. These included a mentoring program for the middle and elementary schools, a production of King Lear at DeSales University, and a "Robot Kids" program, which give students the opportunity to construct small robots controlled by calculators.

Peter Kerr is a freelance writer for The Saucon News. He can be contacted via e-mail at jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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