Bigger isn’t always better in elementary education.
In fact, in some cases, a single new student can nudge the delicate balance between class size and academic performance past the tipping point.
For the (RCDS), the problem of burgeoning enrollment is viewed as a good problem. The opening of the 22,000-square-foot William I. Riker Academic Center in 2010 has given the private school the flexibility it needs to accommodate a larger-than-anticipated number of incoming fourth and fifth grade students.
“The ideal classroom size at RCDS is 12 to 16 students,” RCDS Headmaster Chad B. Small explained. “Right now enrollment in those two grades is right at capacity. With new families touring the school this spring and summer, it seems likely we’ll be compelled to create an additional section.”
In past years, the school had to turn families away in these situations. The ripple effect of creating a new section presented too many space and staffing challenges. The expansion project that was completed two years ago was initiated to encourage higher enrollment that could be accommodated, turning the ripples into a flood of new students with the same student to teacher ratio.
“This is why schools like ours do what they do,” Board of Trustees President Shawn Reynolds said. “We made a profound financial and philosophical commitment at a time when others were forced to circle their wagons.”
Although space is not an obstacle, there is still a considerable amount of planning involved in adding new sections for the 2012-13 school year. This is particularly true of fifth grade, which marks the delineation between the upper and lower schools at RCDS and also acts as a precursor for entry into RCDS honors classes.
“It’s where the rubber meets the road in terms of the exposure to and balance of greater freedom and greater accountability in the development cycle of most of our students,” said Chuck Jones, incoming director of Admissions.
As a former head of school and middle school principal, Jones adds that grades 4 and 5 are where “academics should kick into high gear and students begin to perfect the skill set for which the school is known — including time management, organization, teamwork and leadership … and that is never more true than at Rumson Country Day.”
Small pointed out that new sections come with benefits to students and their families. For instance, with 36 to 40 children in a grade split three ways instead of two, class sizes will be on the low end of the 12 to16 class size spectrum.
“You can do the math,” he said. “The result is more personalized learning, more attention, and fantastic communication between parents, students, teachers and the school at a critical time in a child’s intellectual development.”
The Rumson Country Day School was founded in 1926 as a not-for-profit, independent, non-sectarian, coeducational elementary school set on a 13.5-acre campus in Rumson, NJ. The school enrolls 450 students in grades Preschool-8. RCDS offers a half-day nursery program and a half-day or full-day Pre-K program with a full-day kindergarten program. The student to teacher ratio is 7:1 with an average class size of 15.
For further information please visit www.rcds.org.