Mascenic: District eyes small class sizes 

  • Mascenic Regional High School Vice Principal Charles Langille presented class size data to the school board on Monday, Feb. 6. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/9/2017 7:04:45 AM

Despite recent schedule restructuring, small class sizes for electives at Mascenic Regional High School have caused administrators to look into what they could be doing differently.

The new scheduling system, which comprises the students’ days with classes of two lengths, “blocks” and “skinnys,” was put in place two years ago.

“There are multiple reasons we’re seeing low class sizes,” Vice Principal Charles Langille said. “And a lot of them have to do with scheduling.”

Langille addressed the Mascenic Regional School Board and administration Monday, Feb. 6, at a school board meeting. Principal John Barth, Director of Student Couseling Susan Leahy and School Counselor Cathy Proulx also attended.

They plan to reboot a scheduling committee in the near future.

That some classes, the blocks, are twice as long as others is making it more complicated for students to work in all of their desired classes. While the school administrators believe this is part of the reason for enrollment decline, and say they will address it before school begins in 2018, there are other explanations.

Among them is the district’s 20-credit diploma option for students unable to take the full course load. Barth said for students to enter the program, they need parental permission, a meeting with school administrators and “a really good reason,” like an employment commitment.

This year, nine students are likely to graduate from Mascenic with 20 credits. That is 10.8 percent of the graduating class, down slightly from 12.1 percent in 2016. The highest was 16.25 percent in 2012, and the lowest was 5.2 percent in 2013.

“Knowing the community and the culture, and learning more about the program, I think it makes a lot of sense and we’re trying to work individually with each student and we are working individually with each student,” Barth said.

Other reasons students are not filing into as many classes as in the past is the array of options they have outside the classroom.

Mascenic has 13 students doing ELOs, Extended Learning Opportunities like apprenticeships at area businesses that count as independent studies. An additional 33 students are enrolled in virtual learning classes that they can do in evenings or from home.

While some virtual learning students are doing credit catchup, many of them do it voluntarily to take classes that the school does not offer but will give credit for, such as high-level language classes and unique subjects such as Mandarin or Journalism.

Enrollment numbers for some classes – Foundations of Art, Studio Art, How Art Made the World, Music Technology, Advanced Woodworking, Physical Education II, AP US History and running start editions of Psychology and Sociology – were so low that they did not run.

Between the list of classes that were cancelled for low enrollment and those that students have to take online because they are not offered, school board members had questions about how to make available all the classes students want to take. (Greenville school board representative Tara Sousa’s daughter is the one taking Mandarin, and she says it is because she completed all the levels of studying Spanish the school offered.)

New teachers will be earning qualifications to teach more, including AP classes. One already certified AP teacher is on sabbatical.

“We know art is going to change for sure,” Barth said, acknowledging that the school plans to cut one art teaching position because of low enrollment. “And teachers need to sell their classes because we know students like word of mouth when they’re signing up.”

At the school board meeting, district administrators also discussed future developments. Before the March 14 warrant votes in Greenville and New Ipswich, the school board will send an informational mailer to all residents detailing the items on the ballot, including changes made at the deliberative session.

The next strategic planning meeting will be at 4 p.m. on Feb. 23, a Thursday. These meetings are usually held on Saturdays.


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