Monday, June 01, 2015

Thornton Creek Wondering How a Crowd Gets You Fewer Classrooms

News from Thornton Creek:

The Seattle school district has only budgeted Thornton Creek to have two 4th grade classes, two 5th grade classes and one mixed 4th/5th class for 2015-16, even though there are three 3rd grade classes and three 4th grade classes moving up. 

Grades 4 and 5 are currently 140 students.  The plan would be to have 2 fourth grade classes and 2 fifth grade classes of 29 kids each, and 1 slightly smaller mixed age class for 4th/5th grade.  

A group of concerned parents has created an online petition requesting a sixth class at 4th/5th grade.

 From the petition:
Maintaining a sixth class would enable Thornton Creek to remain a viable option for the district to assign additional students, especially when nearby neighborhood schools are bursting at the seams.  The planned allocation of five classes at 4th and 5th for 2015-16 would remove that option, since the school would be considered full in that configuration.
It is common to have additional students added to Thornton Creek over the summer months. If this trend continues, the district will have to add another teacher before September 2015 to meet the collective bargaining agreement. We believe it would be optimal to allocate funds for a sixth teacher immediately versus waiting until September, to allow time to pro-actively hire from a larger candidate pool and train a new teacher.
Indeed, it appears that TC has a waitlist at nearly all grade levels.  


Anonymous said...

Is this issue any different at TC versus the other schools in the NE (and Lincoln)? 140/5 = 28 kids per class, which is acceptable for upper elementary. 140/6 = 23+ kids per class, which would be great but isn't happening anywhere around here in grades 4-5. Is it the project-based learning that requires smaller sizes?

On the issue of waitlist, can't they just not admit any additional 4th or 5th graders?

Not seeing

Anonymous said...

I think a similar issues is happening at a whole bunch of schools. I have heard from at least four schools with similar problems.

This is in part because of the changes to the funding formula for teachers. The formula for the 2015 school year, now uses a more aggressive student teacher ratio, combined this with a more generous rounding factor to help avoid too many split classrooms. I believe this resulted in almost 60 fewer teachers assigned across the district.

I also think there has been a concerted effort to restrict staff at buildings where there is a tipping point for teaching stations. Several schools that were expecting another portable and another teacher next are getting neither. TC would need one more portable to handle one more teacher.

I can see holding back on teachers because all things relative, you can hire a teacher pretty quickly. However, portable placement is not fast.

I also wonder if this extra teacher would also cross that magic 8 teacher counter which would generate another PCP teacher.

- ne parent

Anonymous said...

This part of the post makes no sense to me: "It is common to have additional students added to Thornton Creek over the summer months."

TC is an option school and, to my understanding, has capped enrollment vs what neighborhood schools can (still high compared to most of the country). But they have a waitlist and don't enroll kids unless others withdraw as far as I understand. It's not a matter of them not having a wait list, but having classes of 23-24 (possibly misleadingly low because of the kids in Sm4?) vs the 28+ kid classes that seem to be planned elsewhere. They don't have to admit neighborhood kids, so if there's room to go up to and trigger a 6th class, I don't understand why they wouldn't just move kids in off the wait list now.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

I'll add, I do think it's pretty bad to have classes of 28 or so kids in 4/5th grade, but far better there than it is to have them in Kindergarten which is happening at many many schools around Seattle. Until we actually figure out how to fund education here, I don't see how we can justify prioritizing an option school's 4/5 classes.

That said, I think public school funding is crazy in Washington and Seattle. We've got to figure out a way to get kids in smaller classes or at a minimum with an additional resource in the rooms.

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

Because of the size of the Decatur building, all upper grades at Thornton Creek are already jammed like sardines into portables, far from bathrooms, lunchrooms, and the like. There is no room for storing belongings inside; backpacks and coats hang outside in the weather. I've been in those classrooms and cannot fathom the idea of sticking five more bodies each into them. I can't figure out what the district is thinking.


Anonymous said...

This seems to be a trend, and not a good one.

John Rogers is now allocated at 384 students, 24 students more than last year's allocation of 360, but with no additional teachers or classrooms.

The number of total gen ed classrooms staying at 15, instead of bumping up to 16 (Hmmm....maybe there is something to the magic 8/PCP thing?). The school was originally slated for two more portables, but I heard the will not be delivered.

The most puzzling thing is that they are projecting a huge drop in kindergarten enrollment next year. This is strange, because kindergarten enrollment has been rising steadily at John Rogers since the NSAP, and I don't think there have been any adjustments made to boundaries, or programs downsized.

It doesn't sound like SPS is planning to add classrooms to Thornton Creek. Does anyone know if Hazel Wolf K-8 is taking an additional kindergarten class and moving their wait list? That is about the only reason I can think of for a projected decrease of over 20 kindergartners at John Rogers.

- North-end Mom

Lynn said...

There are two fourth graders and one fifth grader on the wait list for Thornton Creek right now. Purchasing and placing a portable costs about $75,000. Is it smart to spend that much money on the assumption that another 28 fourth and fifth grade students will request Thornton Creek over the summer?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I would take this time to suggest that you write to the Board - tell them what you have just written here - and ask them how they truly have time, money and bandwidth for the City's Preschool program (which they are voting on Wednesday night).


Anonymous said...

TC has been spoiled with small class sizes. Welcome to reality.

- Beenthere

Anonymous said...

I felt that way when I first heard about this, but really we have all been punished by large class sizes. The 31 child classes that are the absolute norm now (my elementary schooler was in one) weren't even a few years ago, and it is awful. Peevishly hoping tc gets them too won't put any more teachers at your school. We shouldn't accept them anywhere. The budget has gotten better and class sizes are STILL going up next year. It's unconscionable, and it is because of central admin. Other districts do not have our kind of class sizes.


Anonymous said...

+1 for Sleeper's comments!

I am a parent at TC. We had some attrition due to families moving out of district or APP program. We all assumed that we would accept new 4/5 class kids and get the 6th teacher this coming year as we have existing space to have the 6th classroom. Also, the district is very short sighted in our case as we will have a new building in 2016 and they are expecting TC to increase enrollment when the larger school opens. So why not hire now so if there are kids in the neighborhood that get in at a different grade level, their siblings can also join? If we don't get the 6th classroom, this option is not available and the neighborhood schools will HAVE to accommodate them.

Our current enrollment does put us over the 28 kids per class and leaves no breathing room for additional kids. This is not just a TC problem, it impacts neighborhood schools too as we won't be able to take on any children that do want to attend here if there was capacity thereby increasing your neighborhood schools with even more larger class sizes.

- Parents need to unite!

Anonymous said...

My child is now in high school, but has been in classrooms of 30+ something since 4th grade. I thought it was just the norm given the district capacity issues. So, yeah, frustrating, but welcome to reality. There are middle and high school teachers taking on 6 periods instead 5. The district compensates them and the school is able to get by with fewer teachers and limited classroom space.


Anonymous said...

I had a child at TC back in the day who's fifth grade class was 29 kids. Not ideal, but it was doable under a teacher with strong classroom management skills.