Detroit Schools Grapple with Crowded Classes

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Every day, Donnie Hodges totes his backpack into Nolan Elementary School and heads for kindergarten class — searching for his seat among 54 classmates.

The 4-year-old's class is more than double the size it should be under Detroit Public Schools' contract with the teachers' union.

"It's crazy," said Donnie's mother, Crystal Philpoc. "They can't learn very much in that environment."

The Detroit Federation of Teachers says Donnie and numerous other DPS students are in classes with too many children — in violation of the union's contract — because of fluctuating enrollment and delayed teacher assignments. The district says it is reorganizing classrooms and teacher placement to bring sizes closer to contractual limits: 25 students for K through third grade; 30 for grades four and five, and 35 for grades 6-12.

DPS officials could not say how many classes exceeded the contractual limits on size last week. Union officials have received several reports of overcrowded classes but are still trying to find out how many schools and students are affected.

"At this point, there remains a very small number of classrooms where — based on either more students showing up than expected, instances of students returning to DPS from charter or other schools after Count Day, and/or unexpected teacher retirements and resignations — there is a continued need for staff leveling," DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said.

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