Pasco County School officials are under the gun to meet the state’s class-size mandate. And with the deadline looming, there’s a lot of “shuffling,” Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools Dr. David Skanga told the board on Tuesday.
“It’s an everyday project,” Skanga said. Officials are adding staff to the system “where we have to” while being mindful of the large impact any additional staff have on the county’s already strained budget, he said.
Board members noted they have received complaints from parents whose children’s classes have changed at least once, if not multiple times already as schools work to meet the numbers. Kindergarten through third grade classrooms max out at 18 students; grades four through eight top out at 22; and grades nine through 12 cap at 25.
The district was slapped with a $4 million fine for failing to meet the mandate in for the 2011-12 school year. It faces the same penalty if it cannot meet the requirements by the deadline.
The “shuffle” means elementary students may end up with a new teacher, and older students may have to change their schedules or take virtual courses to accommodate the requirements.
Meeting the mandate “will certainly result in change for our students, parents and staff, and it’s not always a welcome change,” board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said.
We have parents who aren’t happy and we completely understand that,” Executive Director for Secondary Schools Beth Brown said. “We don’t want to change student schedules… they’re into their routines… But when that 23rd gifted seventh-grader walks in the door, we have to figure it out.”
The board approved hundreds of out-of-field instructional requests at its Oct. 2 meeting, giving officials the leeway they need to allow those teachers to pick up classes in subjects outside of their certification area. The extra classes they pick up will allow students to have access to the courses they need without adding additional staff.
But adding additional teachers is not off the table, and meeting the requirements may necessitate it, Brown said.
“First and foremost we want to make sure we are meeting the needs of those kids and that we are meeting class size at the same time,” Brown said.
“Nobody likes change once the school year has started,” vice-chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said. “To give parents peace, is there a point where the shuffling will have to stop?”
“Once next Friday comes and we are under class size… it’s really an exception for changes to occur after that,” Skanga said.
Have your children had to shuffle classes since school began in August? Let us know about your experience in the comments section.
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