6 Feet Apart? States with the Most Crowded Classrooms

Amanda Postma
by Amanda Postma
Study - 4 weeks ago

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With COVID-19 disrupting the end of the last school year, almost every family is wondering how this next school year is going to go.

The virus is still preventing many from returning to work, but when it comes to children the conversation is a little more serious.

Many are worried that with such tight spaces, lots of schools won’t have the option of following social distancing guidelines.

With that in mind, we looked into each state to figure out which ones have the most crowded classrooms.

Top 10 Most Crowded Classrooms

  1. Utah
  2. California
  3. Michigan
  4. Nevada
  5. Oregon
  6. Minnesota
  7. Arizona
  8. Washington
  9. Indiana
  10. Idaho

These are the states where it will be the hardest to social distance while in the classroom. Whatever the solution is, check out our full list of states below so you know what states have the biggest hurdles.

How We Determined The States With The Largest Class Size

To find the states where teachers have the most students, we analyzed data from the National Center For Education Statistics.

For elementary schools, we selected the average class size for teachers in self-contained classrooms. For secondary schools, we selected the average class sizes for teachers in departmentalized instruction. These two numbers were then averaged together for the average state class size. The more students in each class, the higher the states ranked.

While these numbers are averages, they do not necessarily represent every teacher or district’s story. For high school teachers, class sizes can differ dramatically between periods. Others who teach music, gym, art, and other non-core classes typically have larger than average class sizes.

Similarly, these numbers are spread out across the state- some schools will have lower numbers, while others have larger roll lists. In addition, newly built schools typically have larger classrooms, while older schools were built with class sizes of the past in mind.

Ultimately, while this data provides a good big picture look, it doesn’t speak to the unique challenges each school and district will face in returning to class.

1. Utah

utah class=

Elementary Class Size: 24.2
Secondary Class Size: 29
Average Class Size: 26.6

Utah has the largest average class size in the entire U.S. with 26.6 students. With classrooms already crowded before, Utah will have a difficult time trying to keep the 6-foot recommended guideline between each student if they return to classrooms in the fall.

2. California

california class=

Elementary Class Size: 21.6
Secondary Class Size: 29.9
Average Class Size: 25.75

Since California is such a big state, the fact that it has the second-highest average class size of 25.75 students doesn’t really come as a shock. In fact, the state ranks No. 1 for its secondary school class size of 29.9 students. Maybe schools will start holding classes out by the beach.

3. Michigan

michigan class=

Elementary Class Size: 24.2
Secondary Class Size: 29
Average Class Size: 26.6

While it might be impossible for Michigan school districts to teach their students outside, for most of the year at least, the state does come in No. 3 with its class sizes so it’ll have to get creative if students are going to come back to school. The state has the highest elementary school class size of 24.2 students.

4. Nevada

nevada class=

Elementary Class Size: 21.6
Secondary Class Size: 29.9
Average Class Size: 25.75

While the Las Vegas strip may not provide the kind of education schools are hoping to provide, Nevada may have to resort to holding classes at the Hoover Dam with the fourth-highest average class size of 25.75. The state also has one of the highest secondary school class sizes of 29.9 students, which means school districts here will have to get creative if they want to return to in-person schooling.

5. Oregon

oregon class=

Elementary Class Size: 25.1
Secondary Class Size: 26.1
Average Class Size: 25.6

Oregon may choose to continue remote learning in the fall with its fifth-highest average class size of 25.6 students. Especially with its high average of 26.1 students in secondary schools, no one would blame the school districts for playing it safe.

6. Minnesota

minnesota class=

Elementary Class Size: 21.6
Secondary Class Size: 28.4
Average Class Size: 25

With an average of 25 students in each class, Minnesota comes in at No. 6. The state has one of the highest elementary school class sizes of 21.6 students.

7. Arizona

arizona class=

Elementary Class Size: 23.4
Secondary Class Size: 26.3
Average Class Size: 24.85

The No. 7 spot is filled by Arizona with an average class size of 24.85 students. The state is deserving of this rank as it has one of the highest elementary school class sizes of 23.4 students. With those kinds of numbers, it may be better to play it safe through remote learning.

8. Washington

washington class=

Elementary Class Size: 23.7
Secondary Class Size: 25.5
Average Class Size: 24.6

With both elementary and secondary class sizes ranking for seventh-highest in the country, Washington comes in at No. 8 on the list. Since Arizona had a higher elementary school class size, Washington was bumped to this spot. Fortunately, this means Washington school districts may have better luck when it comes to finding 6-feet of space for each class of 24.6 students.

9. Indiana

indiana class=

Elementary Class Size: 23.6
Secondary Class Size: 25.4
Average Class Size: 24.5

While Indiana’s elementary school class sizes of 23.6 students are lower than most other states on this list, its secondary school class size is what puts it on the map. With an average of 25.4 students in each secondary school class, the state may have to make better use of space that doesn’t normally get used every hour of the school day. Here’s to learning math in the cafeteria.

10. Idaho

idaho class=

Elementary Class Size: 23.3
Secondary Class Size: 25.5
Average Class Size: 24.4

With an average class size of 24.4 students, Idaho rounds off the top 10 of the most crowded classrooms. The state’s secondary school class size of 25.5 students may be further down the list, but its elementary school class size is what caught our attention. With an average of 23.3 students, Idaho ranks third for how crowded its elementary school classrooms are.

Is Socially Distancing Possible In The Most Crowded Classrooms?

Parents all across the country are wondering what this school year could potentially look like. Many are hoping that schools don’t resort to online learning, while just as many are terrified they won’t. Each state and sometimes even district has been left on its own to tackle a new, complex problem. Some administrators and teachers feel keeping students 6 ft apart is physically impossible with their buildings and current class sizes.

Additional staff, altered schedules, and creative solutions are being rolled out to ease the burden in some areas. While we don’t have a clear answer to what schools are going to do, it is clear some state schools have a bigger challenge ahead than others.

Rank State Elementary Class Size Secondary Class Size Average Class Size
1 Utah 24 29 26
2 California 21 29 25
3 Michigan 25 26 25
4 Nevada 21 28 25
5 Oregon 23 26 24
6 Minnesota 23 25 24
7 Arizona 23 25 24
8 Washington 23 25 24
9 Indiana 21 25 23
10 Idaho 23 22 23
11 Kentucky 22 23 22
12 Illinois 21 23 22
13 Colorado 21 23 22
14 Alaska 20 24 22
15 Hawaii 20 23 22
16 Florida 18 25 21
17 Ohio 21 22 21
18 Alabama 19 24 21
19 Maryland 20 22 21
20 Wisconsin 19 23 21
21 Pennsylvania 21 21 21
22 Delaware 22 19 21
23 Rhode Island 20 21 21
24 New Mexico 19 22 20
25 New Jersey 19 21 20
26 Missouri 20 21 20
27 Tennessee 17 23 20
28 Connecticut 19 21 20
29 Iowa 20 20 20
30 Oklahoma 19 20 20
31 Georgia 17 23 20
32 South Dakota 18 21 20
33 Arkansas 20 20 20
34 New York 18 21 20
35 New Hampshire 19 21 20
36 South Carolina 18 21 20
37 West Virginia 19 21 20
38 Kansas 19 20 20
39 Mississippi 19 20 19
40 Texas 17 21 19
41 Louisiana 18 20 19
42 Montana 19 19 19
43 Massachusetts 19 19 19
44 North Carolina 19 19 19
45 Virginia 18 20 19
46 Nebraska 19 18 19
47 Wyoming 18 18 18
48 Vermont 17 19 18
49 North Dakota 17 18 18
50 Maine 17 17 17
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