Fenton Charter School in Lake View Terrace is one of the first city schools to reduce class sizes and possibly the first school in California to shrink classes from kindergarten to the third grade.
The independent, year-round school began its day Monday with a 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio in the four grade levels, dispersing the 740 students into 37 classrooms. The school hired nine new teachers for the change.
Director Joe Lucente said teachers and administrators decided to go beyond the first grade reduction set by the state to improve students' educations.
"The law says we could change three grades, but we went ahead and did all four because we thought it would be best for the kids," Lucente said.
Elementary schools throughout California have until Feb. 16 to cut class sizes in first grade to 20 students. They may also shrink classes in second and third or kindergarten classes. Districts that reduce first and second grades and either kindergarten or third grades by the February deadline will share $771 million, or $650 per student, to hire teachers or provide other services.
Although Fenton will not receive any additional funding for reducing the size of a fourth grade, Lucente said it was worth it.
Making the change now "made it easier for us to find quality teachers and is just the best thing all around," he said. "This way the students are moved around when things are really going during the school year."
Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County and Rio Linda Unified in Sacramento County are the only two school districts in the state with schools that reduced classes in grades one through three, said Ann Evans, director of facilities for the state Department of Education.