43 VISD classes have more kids than allowed by state

Sept. 15, 2011 at 4:15 a.m.

The Victoria school district board of trustees voted at its regular meeting Thursday to request the state allow 43 classes on nine elementary campuses to operate with more students per teacher than allowed by law.

The board unanimously approved applying for waivers required by the state if enrollment surveys show kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms will have a ratio greater than 22 students to one teacher.

In light of state budget cuts, Tammy Nobles, student services coordinator, said the Texas Education Agency should be expecting several districts to apply for the waivers.

This is the fourth consecutive year VISD has applied, though the district worked to impose a limit of no more than 24 students per classroom.

"The public needs to understand it may take putting two extra kids in a class, but that's a lot easier than building a new school," said board member Bernard Klimist. "I think this is a temporary solution to a very good problem . it's growth we anticipated when we built the new schools."

The waivers were in response to nearly 500 more students in the district at this time this year compared to last. Nobles said there are about 700 more students starting school this year compared to the number of students enrolled the last day of class last year.

To accommodate the growth, VISD was able to shift teacher and student populations and hire seven elementary school teachers. The new hires will be funded by increased per-student state funding for average daily attendance.

Forty-three students had to be transferred to schools outside of their neighborhood to accommodate shifting populations, Nobles said.

As many as 153 of the new students, a large number from kindergarten and first grade, joined the district after Outreach Word Academy charter school closed this summer, said Diane Boyett, district communications specialist.

VISD attributes the rest of the increase in enrollment to growth in Victoria.

"We're really going to have to keep our eyes open looking forward and seeing where our enrollment will be . with the expected increase in economic activity here," board member Lou Svetlik said. "I don't want us to wait too long and not foresee any other further growth."

Superintendent Bob Moore said the administration budgeted for an increase of 200 students this year, and by tweaking attendance zones, VISD should be able to be in compliance next year.

Some schools have the space to take on more students, while others, like Torres Elementary are at full capacity, Boyett said. The rezoning efforts, which the district has to look at every few years, should also help balance future enrollment at East and West high schools, she added.

This year, East High School has about 120 more kids than West.

Dwight Harris, the Victoria area representative for the Texas Federation of Teachers, said adding any more students to a classroom will make more work for the teachers, but he thinks the challenge is a better alternative than the district having to lay off teachers and request even larger waivers.

"It's going to make it more difficult, but in light of cuts from Austin and in light of the fact that this district did all it could to save jobs, that's a good trade off," he said.



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