The Killeen Independent School District said some classrooms for grades five through high school could have more students, but no other plans were announced for the fall.
The KISD board, with a 7-0 vote last week, approved staffing allocations for the 2020-2021 school year that include changing the maximum class size capacity from 23 students for one teacher to 26 students per teacher. Craft said he does not think the district will be able to support a staff with a 23:1 student-teacher ratio.
Craft did not elaborate on the cost, and district officials did not respond to Herald questions emailed Wednesday and Thursday. The district acknowledged receipt of the Wednesday questions.
The district currently has over 7,000 employees and over 45,000 students. Those students attend 51 different campuses, according to the district’s website. As of last year, the district had around 2,800 teachers.
Rick Beaulé, president of the Killeen Educators Association, said the district had not shared much information with teachers about the coming year.
“If the district has or has started thinking about a plan, they have not shared it with anyone. Regardless of the governor’s rosy outlook, it’s a major concern of ours, especially given the reports that the virus is going to be with us for a while. Our campuses and classrooms are not designed for social distancing, much less doing so with increased class sizes,” Beaulé said.
More students per teacher means the district does not need as many teachers at each level of education. The district, however, could not make changes at some grade levels.
Classes from kindergarten through fourth grade are required to keep a 22:1 student to teacher ratio unless a class-size waiver request is submitted to the agency, according to Melissa Holmes with the Texas Education Agency.
KISD officials said Tuesday they will subtract 32.5 teachers from the elementary level, 57 from the middle school level and 65.5 from the high school level in the 2020-2021 school year.
Beaulé said he also is concerned about the teachers’ workload with more students.
“Any time you increase the number of students in the room, even for the best of financial reasons, it’s a troubling development because it increases the difficulty of what is an already incredibly difficult job for educators,” Beaulé said. “The plain and honest truth is that the heaviest burden of this change — by far — is going to fall on the shoulders of the already overburdened teachers in the district,” he said.
“You might not think (adding) three or four students matters to the operation of a classroom, but the impact is going to be tremendous. We disagree with Dr. Craft’s statement that anything over 20 students has no impact, because that 3-4 person increase in the number of students translates to a 15-20% increase in the workload of teachers just in terms of assessments, grading and paperwork,” Beaulé said.
Neighboring Copperas Cove ISD follows the 22:1 class size ratio for all of its classes set by the TEA and does not intended to change its class size, according to Wendy Sledd, the spokeswoman for the district.
“The District’s goal has always been to keep class sizes as small as possible. We know smaller class sizes provide more opportunities for teachers to build relationships with students and address their individual needs,” said Amanda Crawley, the district’s deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “We want our teachers to be able to have those individualized, personal learning experiences with their students. Providing our students with the best possible education is always a top priority. I am encouraged to see the great work our teachers are doing to meet the needs of students even during off-campus academic instruction.”
The Herald on Wednesday asked KISD questions related to the change in student-teacher ratio. As of Saturday afternoon, answers had not been received. Additional questions were sent Thursday.
Here are the questions that were asked:
How many teachers does the district currently have? Can you break it down to elementary school, middle school, high school and special education?
Will the district have to lay off any teachers? Or will they not hire as many teachers heading into the next school year?
By cutting teacher positions, how much money is the district saving?
Does the district expect a loss of revenue next school year? If so, by how much?
Will the increase of students in classrooms remove any portable classrooms from schools?
What is the average salary of classroom teachers in the district?
When do teachers sign annual contracts? When will you know if they are returning?
Will you offer contracts to all current teachers?
How many teachers have said they are retiring at the end of the current school year?
Will you have any empty classrooms with this new teacher/student ratio?
What will teachers need to do differently with different class sizes?
How will you incorporate some social distancing into the classroom with even more people in the classroom?
Does this change involve any construction to make classrooms larger?
Is any state or federal funding affected by a change in ratio?
Further questions were sent on Thursday.
Is the decision to expand the student to teacher ratio related to a future loss of Impact Aid funding? Is it because of something else?
Does the district have a plan in place for the fall if concerns over the virus are still around? Will the district use creative classrooms to educate but continue social distancing?
Is there concern over putting more kids into a single classroom?
How will you keep a social distance between children in the classroom? Will students attend class in regular classrooms?
How will you handle sharing of items among kids, such as pencils, crayons, rulers, etc.?
How will teachers do things differently?
Do you have any written guidelines for teachers returning to school amid a pandemic?
Are there new protocols for teachers? For classrooms? For different grades??
Will any classrooms go unused with the new teaching ratio?
Will there be fewer portable classrooms? At which schools?
What is your estimated enrollment for the fall?