LYNNFIELD — Two Summer Street School parents urged the School Committee to revisit the district’s kindergarten class sizes for the next academic year during a May 16 meeting.

The School Department’s class size guidelines for kindergarten students ranges between 18 and 22 students, with 18 being considered the “optimal number.” While kindergarten enrollment figures are still being determined for the 2023-2024 academic year, Superintendent Kristen Vogel said the district currently plans on offering three kindergarten classes at Summer Street and four at Huckleberry Hill School.

Russet Lane resident Jenny Sheehan urged school officials to offer four kindergarten classes at Summer Street instead of three. She said a number of parents support her proposal.

“As a mom of an incoming kindergartner at Summer Street School, I have concerns over the decision to reduce their classrooms to three,” said Sheehan. “This decision was made based on the class size policy written by the School Committee. In a growing diverse community with rapidly increasing social-emotional challenges, the parents are asking the School Committee to please review and revise this class size policy to give more flexibility that better supports the needs of our youngest learners.”

Sheehan recalled that town officials asked residents two-and-a-half years ago to approve the $18 million elementary schools expansion project due to increased enrollment.

“Many of you were quoted as saying research proves that increased class size impedes test scores and reduces student engagement,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan recalled that Spring Town Meeting approved the School Department’s $29,656,549 operating budget for fiscal year 2024 last month.

“We now have a chance to further reduce class size with money that has already been approved in the budget for this purpose,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan said research proves that smaller class sizes will benefit students academically.

“The most famous study found that students in smaller classes that have between 13 and 17 children in grades K-3 outperformed students with classes between 22 and 25, and were a whole year ahead academically by the time they reached eighth grade,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan recalled that the district’s class size guidelines were last updated in December 2003.

“In a progressive district like Lynnfield that is constantly revaluating all areas from curriculum to allergies, it seems fitting that all of our policies would come under review and revision,” said Sheehan. “This class size policy was written 20 years ago. When did the School Committee last review it? Is it actually still supporting our learners of today?”

Sheehan said smaller class sizes would benefit students who have special needs such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

“We have been given a unique opportunity to truly show these children support,” said Sheehan. “The money is already in the budget, and there is nothing more valuable to us as parents. Former Superintendent Jane Tremblay said, ‘The students who sit in front of us today have more needs both socially-emotionally and academically than ever before.’ Having smaller class sizes allows educators to meet the needs of those students in a more effective and efficient manner.”

Sheehan said townspeople voted in favor of the $18 million elementary schools expansion project because they believe “class size matters.”

“Now we have a real opportunity to do good and reduce class size to make a real difference in the lives of our children,” said Sheehan. “What I really want to know is did the School Committee change their view on the importance of class size? And if not, what could be a better use of this money than opening a fourth classroom? The parents would like to know how you plan to spend it and why you think that is more supportive of our children than reducing class sizes?”

School Committee Vice Chair Stacy Dahlstedt recalled that she and Chair Rich Sjoberg serve on the Policy Subcommittee, and they are frequently reviewing the district’s policies. She said the Administrative Leadership Team looks “closely” at school enrollment to determine the number of classes that will be offered at each grade.

“That keeps our class sizes within the range included in the policy,” said Dahlstedt. “I understand what you are saying about social-emotional needs. We all agree with that and understand that. I don’t think we are in a position to reduce class sizes. We are trying to balance what is best for our students while also balancing our financial and budgetary obligations and constraints.”

Vogel said the kindergarten enrollment process for next year is similar to prior academic years.

“It is based on the number of students,” said Vogel. “Last year it warranted four and the year before that it warranted five. What we have seen in the last three years is there is no set number of kindergarten classrooms that we will have at each school. It all depends on the number of children that are going to enroll in that school. We are very careful when looking at those guidelines. Sometimes it falls on the lower end of those guidelines and sometimes it falls on the upper end. That could change as time goes on. We are still pretty early in this process, and a lot can happen. We watch it all summer and if anything dramatic happens, we will make adjustments.”

Vogel told Sheehan she does not want her to “think there was a conscious decision to do something that has not been done in the past.”

“It just so happens that there are fewer kindergartners in the town of Lynnfield,” said Vogel. “Huckleberry Hill will have four classes and right now Summer Street will have three. That could change at either school. We had years where we had more fourth-graders move in, and we had to make adjustments. It’s hard to know right now.”

Sheehan said she and other concerned parents understand that school enrollment fluctuates.

“The fear that the parents have is the guidelines also say 18 on the lower end is the optimal number,” said Sheehan. “Twenty-two is a lot. We just fear that is becoming the new normal.”

Vogel said determining the number of classes offered at each grade level is a “numbers game.”

“It’s literally a math problem,” said Vogel. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Main Street resident Amanda Sheehan, who is unrelated to Jenny Sheehan, said she and her husband have worked in education for over 30 years.

“We moved to Lynnfield for one reason and one reason only,” she said. “We moved here so our child is not a number.”

School Committee member Jamie Hayman noted there are currently 64 kindergartners enrolled at Summer Street.