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Available Classroom Space Becomes a Potential Problem for Growing District 308

Some classrooms in the district have over 30 students.

With the growth of the Oswego 308 School District, the Board of Education will begin to start looking at classroom sizes and the options available.

At the Monday night board meeting, Superintendent Matthew Wendt brought to attention the variety of numbers across the district in terms of students in classes.

He mentioned, for example, that two sections of fifth grade at Hunt Club and two sections of kindergarten at Long Beach each had 16 students apiece, while a fifth grade at Churchill and a fourth and second grade at Homestead have between 30 and 33 students each.

“Once we get into that 32, 33 category you can imagine the situation we find ourselves in to add the next teacher,” said Wendt. Adding a new teacher to that classroom drops the average to around 16 students.

Classrooms with students in the low to mid 20’s Wendt said do not pose a problem, but the ones in the high 20’s and rising into the 30’s do.

Currently Wendt is working to get a report on how many students are in each individual elementary class, and will then move onto the junior high, which he said is more problematic.

If the school hired more teachers, Wendt said, would there even be any place to put the new classroom?

He asked fellow board members for their suggestions or opinions on the matter.

Brent Lightfoot suggested adding a column for the total number of useable classrooms in each building. “If we wanted to create another class, could we?” he asked. “We can’t always look at capacity numbers.”

Wendt said that some classrooms designated for certain activities, like reading time, could be made into classrooms. “If it’s acceptable that we make those changes, would we want those to be classrooms?”

Some rooms that could be up for use, for example, have no windows or are smaller than normal.

“We need to talk about the size of the rooms,” said board vice-president Alison Swanson.

“As long as we have a common understanding of what a room is, that’s fine,” said Lightfoot. He suggested that if absolutely necessary programs like ‘art on a cart’ could be brought back. “We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”

“Not every elementary classroom is created equal,” said Wendt, saying that was the problem at just looking at the number of classrooms. “Are there classrooms where can put 30 kids? Are there classrooms we cannot physically put 30 kids?”

A more detailed report will be available once each elementary school has been examined. 

John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Most year-round schools I am aware of do not have the same students year round attendance is staggered so do the teachers work a full year or is their schedule staggered too? Also while chicago has YRE its a small percentage. We have debated YRE for D308 several times as a way to better utilize buildings rather than but that's a different topic.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The school calander has two end dates. The ladt day and the ladt day if the snow days are used. Usually there are two or three snow days. So those could be used to make up the strike time I guess assuming there isn't a blizzard. Again though no matter how the time is made up its made from days that eould normally have been days off so in effect striking teachers will get full pay.
Logansdad September 14, 2012 at 04:26 PM
John, the teachers are paid based on a contract to work x many days. If they work x many days they should be paid according to their contract. Also the state mandates how many days the kids need to be in school. The typical office/plant/retial worker is not tied to a contract. Comparing apples to oranges
Martin September 14, 2012 at 04:39 PM
@logansdad....yes there are extra days built in for planned snow days, but if the days are not used, the kids and teachers still go on those 'extra' days.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 04:47 PM
@Logansdad. Apples and oranges, yes and no. Let me try again. I was a Teamster. Our contract did not specify we work X days per year. If we went out on strike for 15 days, we did not get a company paycheck during that time. When we went back to work, we did not get any sort of make up pay for those days and since we worked all year there is obviously no way to create 15 extra days, so we lost 15 days pay. By law school is to be in session something like 180 days. So if the teacher is payed based on that. If there is a strike for the same 15 days, correct the teacher does not get a paycheck during the strike. However 15 days of school were lost, that has to be made up. It's made up from snow days, maybe cancelling the half days and using that, etc and then maybe adding on a couple of days at the end to make up the 15 days lost. Those were all days that were non working days which are now working days so in effect yes a teacher will be paid for the lost days. Yes you end up working them so you aren't paid for no work, but by the nature of a teachers schedule they have that opportunity to receive their full pay as where a private sector union worker does not.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Henry, I've been union so I do understand the politics and timing of a strike. I also understand that no one strikes out of the blue...well usually not...that the issues are long standing. How long have schools in Chicago been without AC? The K-8 I went to was 100 years old when I went 1969-1977. How many nurses were in the school? 1 How many social workers were there? zero. So these things have been around for along time...back in the day we assumed there would be a strike and never were quite sure school would start on time. Since these things are not new, negotiations could start sooner, and they have tried. They could have said too , we're not going back rather then start school then stop it.
Debbie Scheskie Buchanan September 14, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I wonder why no one is discussing year-round school as even an option. It's a great way to more fully utilize the buildings that we already have and increases the overall capacity for each school. It's been done very successfully in other communities and actually has quite a few educational benefits as well. I know it is a drastic change and that tends to scare people off the topic, but how much more tax money do you really think the homeowners can put out to keep building schools?
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Yeare round has been talked about in the area here many times uaually comes up at referendum time and it always shot down about as fast as you can say year round school!
Plainfield September 14, 2012 at 07:03 PM
My mother worked at a year round school - but it was same kids, just spreading out the 180 days over the year. Worked great in that kids retained more over the 'summer'. This option would not solve any of the current 308 issues. Other option would be to put kids on shifts. (say group A attends from Sept-Nov and group B attends from Dec-Feb.etc.) This requires more teachers but uses less buildings. Again our issue is no money, not space. Anyone got any other ideas?
Plainfield September 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I think most parents have picked full day kindergarten which is not offered in most schools - our family thinks that full day programs, and a little extra time on the bus is ok. I don't think overcrowding is the issue - that school holds like 900 kids and the boundary report last year said 700 some kids were attending.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Multi track gets shot down even faster. Its been awhile though. Less cash around sp maybe its worth a look but if you have several kids the issue is can they be kept o the same track.
Plainfield September 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM
@Dave - the good news is 3 foreclosed homes on my street finally sold, the bad news is 2 of the new families have kids, and the old owners did not - that is where the kids are coming from.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 07:47 PM
When Joel Murphy was here the dist had done a study and found that the more affluent areas had fewer kids per house than less affluent areas.
John Spasojevich September 14, 2012 at 07:58 PM
This of course an average but it was information provided to the committee working on facilities back in 04 or 06. The inference was that district preference was for upsacale large houses which paid higher tax and generated fewer kids to use the system. It was an interesting report. Of course there are exceptions and define affluence in Oswego terms. Its change since foreclosure became popular.
Jim September 14, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I was thinking the same thing. I'm pretty certain that we are using these things called computers that are really, really good at storing and then giving back data very quickly with very little effort. Maybe this is a sign of just how inefficient things are run.
Jim September 14, 2012 at 10:48 PM
At the expense of the other 95% of the students
Jim September 14, 2012 at 11:13 PM
$5,000? On what?
Martin September 15, 2012 at 02:00 PM
No Jim....along side the other 95%.
Jim September 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
“Alongside” and “at the expense of “are not mutually inclusive. Look, I am not saying there should not be special funding and attention given where needed, but let's not be so PC as to ignore the elephant in the room- that spending on "special needs" kids has increased disproportianetely to funding and spending on "average" students and has begun to over burden school districts across the nation. Spending on a special needs student is 2 to 3 times the normal student (Center for Special Education Finance). They require special instructors, classrooms, transport, (multiple) individual aides, etc. When there are resources to go around, that’s great, but when you are talking about a cash-strapped district that is short on space and teachers, it has to come at the expense of other students. It seems to be a given that larger class sizes means a lesser quality education and we have classes that exceed the acceptable amount because we have no room or no money to hire more teachers. Special needs children “require a lot of space and specially trained teachers” (ie, smaller classes and more teachers). It’s easy to connect the dots. I don’t know what the answer is. But it seems to me, that whenever school budgets are discussed, special needs spending is a sacred cow and the regular kids seem to get the short end of it.
JimmyJ September 15, 2012 at 05:41 PM
So then Jim, define "special needs". Then please explain what we should do with them. And lets keep talking like they are animals dragging all the "normal" kids down.
Jim September 15, 2012 at 07:31 PM
JimmyJ – I think you are being a bit overdrammatic. By no means did I even come close to insinuating that! In fact, I made a point to mention that I believe the kids should get the extra funding and attention they need - from both a legal (IDEA) and moral standpoint. My point is that spending on special needs programs continue to shoot through the roof while overall funding remains constant. Simple math says something needs to get cut. And then when it’s time for cuts, it’s not socially popular to even SUGGEST these programs get reduced, much less do it. And , no, I can’t define it because I am not them one defining those that qualify. But if I ventured a definition, I will say any student that receives a curriculum outside of the normal – and yes “normal” because if one thing is “special” their needs to be a “normal”. And that’s not to say one is better than the other. What to do with them? Nothing special. Treat that funding the same as the rest.
Martin September 16, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Jim, I interpreted your comments the same as JimmyJ...you consider special needs less than normal. AS the parent of two special needs students and teh friend to many parents of special needs children, I understand the anger from 'normal' parents when looking at the fact that anywhere between 2-10 kids are in a special needs class with one or two aides in addition to the teacher. If the child can learn under these circumstances why should they not be taught and become useful members of society...just like the 'normal' kids. And judging by the attitudes of many kids in JrHS and HS...I don't want a 'normal' child.
JimmyJ September 16, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Jim so where do we start to level the field? What about the so called "opportunity school" why not cut that funding and put the serious trouble makers back in the regular class. While we're at it the AP kids can go to regular class too with the "normal " kids. What is the definition of normal? I pay tax to this district but send my kids to private school in Aurora. The student with the highest average is in a wheelchair suffering from muscular dystrophy and he is is a room of "normal" kids. "special needs" kids used to go to separate "facilities" but that was seen as discrimination. Are you suggesting a return to that? The special kids might actually do better away from the distraction of normalcy, whatever that is.
Jim September 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM
You are missing my point. Nothing is wrong with services provided. I’m referring to to budget issues and the “at all costs approach” special needs programs get while mainstream funding continues to go down. And let’s get off the semantics – special needs is not my term and normal is just a term to refer to non-special need kids- taking it as something otherwise just degrades an otherwise healthy debate. And FYI, I am also the parent of 2 special needs children and one normal kid. To demonstrate my point, let’s take a what if – there are 3 classrooms available and we have 35 mainstream kids and 10 kids that need the specialized attention. We have the choice to 1) break up into a class of 7 & 8 mainstream and one 10 kid class or 2) have one 35 kid class and two 5 kid special needs class. In a perfect world, they would have enough space and money to hire the teachers and provide for all – but we don’t. So, we all know what happens (either by law or to be socially responsible)- option 2 always wins.
Plainfield September 17, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I think the 'brainstorm' is about (as reported in the Ledger) do we over-crowd class rooms, or make new students go to different schools where space is available or add teachers? These are policy questions which the board directs, then the admin 'fixes' it as someone suggested.
JimmyJ September 20, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Interesting editorial in the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-teachers-20120919,0,1776515.story Charter schools....non union, lower paid teachers yet the students excel much more than their peers at higher paid union schools. There must be something more to it, what is it and why?
Jane Enviere September 20, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Actually there is a lot more to it. This article is a nice summary of two significant studies on charter schools. http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/charter-schools-no-panacea-for-public-schools-problems_2011-03-06.html I have a couple of friends - certified teachers with advanced degrees who did stints in charter schools and both schools were full of turnover and other problems. They were delighted to head back to public schools - even though it meant pay cuts.
Tom September 20, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Interesting article on Charter schools. Are they really producing better results? http://www.educationjustice.org/newsletters/nlej_iss21_art5_detail_CharterSchoolAchievement.htm
JimmyJ September 20, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Well I suppose it's open to debate. Maybe the teachers feel they are failures, but there are 19,000 on waiting lists in Chicago to get into them. One thing is certain, CPS now had a deficit that is insurmountable without closures. They will happen and many of those teachers probably should bank their pay raise because they will be out of work. The condition of anything with the word "public" attached to it is in a very bad position these days.
Doug Collie September 22, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I'm not sure that anyone will read this because I'm joining the conversation late. Jim I'm not sure that you have a point if you are coming from such an uninformed position. The state of Illinois is currently the worst in funding for special needs in the United States and when my special needs child was born 12 years ago the state was in the mid 40's. Yes, that's correct we are behind Mississippi and Arkansas. Because the federal mandate on providing services to individuals with special needs is so vague states are regularly cutting these budgets when there is shortfall in general budgets. That sacred cow you mentioned is damn near dead as it is in this state. By the way, there are special needs individuals and typical individuals. Normal is not a term that is appropriate or accurate.

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