The Zephyr

40’s a crowd: large classroom sizes leave students scrambling for a seat

Jada Hallman, Editor-in-Chief

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Welcome back, West High! This new school year has been met with excitement and many returning and new faces. There were so many faces that this August, students may have seen that some classes had fewer desks than students. Some classrooms were overcrowded and bustling with ambitious minds, ready to learn and in need of appropriate furniture. It’s necessary that every West High student has a desk to complete the daily objectives of the class, so some changes had to be made to accommodate everyone and make sure everyone has a great year.

Remember when you signed up for classes early in February of the 2017-2018 school year? When students request the classes they want for the following year, the counselors of West High use those requests to predict the expected enrollment numbers of students per class for the upcoming school year. The counselors also have to take into account past trends of students, estimates of how many students might move to a different school, register for West High late or experience any other enrollment adjustments. After looking at all these numbers, a “master schedule” is created that will give students the classes they need to graduate and as many top requested electives as possible. However, sometimes these numbers are a little off.

“This year we didn’t have as many seniors move,” said Principal Zachary Boswell, Ed.D. This retention of students resulted in higher classroom sizes of up to 40 students. According to the Teachers Union Master Agreement between Tracy Unified School District and Tracy Educators Association, “The District will not exceed a maximum class size of… thirty five students in 9-12 academic classes… forty five students for 9-12 grade P.E. classes.” If class size numbers go beyond these parameters, “the District will have thirteen instructional days to make adjustments to comply with class limits… Beginning on the fourteenth day, class size compensation payments shall be calculated retroactive to the first day of the overage.”

To put it simply, counselors are responsible for ensuring there are no more than 35 students per class or the District will have to increase the salaries of the teachers who have overages. In order to do this, counselors have moved students in classes with larger numbers to classes with smaller numbers, causing schedules to be changed during the third week of school. “We want to make the moves that will impact the fewest students,” said Dr. Boswell. “If we have a lot of room in other classes and it works for students’ schedules, some people will get moved… we try our best to get everyone the classes they requested.”

Why don’t we keep the large classes instead of moving students around? “The state of California funds us a class of about 32 to 1,” said Superintendent Brian Stephens, Ed.D. “87% of [the District’s] budget is spent on people: administration, classified, teachers, secretaries, bus drivers… so that leaves little room for anything else.” Large class sizes also have their own difficulties for teachers. With more students per class, desk space is limited, grading takes longer, feedback flow is slower, talking to parents may be complex, lesson plans may be skewed and trying to get a large number of students to do a single task can be a challenge. “Everything goes slower so we can’t get as much done,” said Spanish teacher Ms. Laura McMillan, who also experienced a large influx of eighth graders interested in taking Spanish, filling her classes with up to 39 students.

As students experience schedule changes, teachers are also having to adjust their schedules to comply with regulations. Some teachers, such as World History and Government and Politics teacher Mr. Michael Castor, have taken on another class period during their prep period in order to open more room for overages of students. “For me,” said Castor, “the one thing that’s going to change is losing that hour and having to do more work before school and after school.”

West High has spent the past years growing into the grand and diverse school it is today, and it is full of students who are passionate and excited about the classes they have. Through a very intricate process managed by our counselors, we are able to take the classes we need to graduate and the electives we enjoy in an organized way, even if there are a few bumps along the way. With a few adjustments here and there, the 2018-2019 school year is shaping up to be a fun, successful year.

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40’s a crowd: large classroom sizes leave students scrambling for a seat