It’s a math problem that needs solving every year at this time, but that doesn’t make sorting out class sizes any easier for the San Diego Unified School District, the second largest district in California.
The current education contract calls for a 24:1 student to teacher ratio for grades K through third and a 34:1 ratio for grades fourth through sixth.
District administrators are working with principals at schools where classes exceed those limits to move students and sometimes teachers.
“My son’s class has 27 or 28 students right now and they need less” said Doyle Elementary kindergarten mom Karen Smeltzer.
Servicing an area that includes many UCSD grad students, Doyle Elementary has a uniquely high number of young children -- they have seven kindergarten classes. The district said they’ll likely shuffle students from the larger classes to smaller classes to meet the agreed upon ratio.
Not all fixes are that easy. The district is also looking at creating “combo classes” between grade levels. Historically parents are not fond of combo classes for cases where certain grades have a higher number of students.
Another option, more favorable among parents, is adding another class to the school. The district says this option comes with its own budget and staffing challenges.
As fifth-grade mom Angel Gilpin found out, the class size “shell game” has some teachers starting the school year not knowing if they’ll stay with the same class.
“He told the students yesterday, which he also disclosed to us parents, that he has a two week window and within that two weeks he'll know if he gets to stay here,” Gilpin said.
The district used to take the first four weeks to arrive at their permanent staffing level, but now does it in half that time finishing up the changes by the second Friday of the school year.
Nearly 140 district employees, including all of the principals, are working to make sure elementary class sizes are at agreed upon levels.