Friday, September 25, 2009

NYC SCHOOLS ARE OVERCROWDED: City classrooms overflowing with students

Leonie Haimson, President of CLASS SIZE MATTERS, forwards the following – apropos of how well mayors run school districts:

BY Rachel Monahan and Meredith Kolodner | NY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Friday, September 18th 2009, 4:00 AM  -- Classrooms throughout the city are overpacked with students as schools struggle with limited funds.

Thousands of classes citywide are packed to the gills in all grades as schools struggle to stretch every scarce dollar, the Daily News has learned.

More than 7,200 classes are over the limit set in the teachers union contract, the union says.

"In my science research class, there are some kids sitting behind the blackboard," said Renzo Meza, a freshman at Forest Hills High School, which has 384 classes with more than the 34-student limit for high schools.

"They have to come in front and kneel down to take notes."

High schools in Queens have the most crowded conditions, with 26 having more than 34 kids per class, the report said.

More than 175 kindergartens have more than the mandated 25 kids, with the most problems on Staten Island and in the northeast section of the Bronx.

Parents of some fourth-graders at Public School 184 in Whitestone, Queens, were notified Thursday that even though they lived in the school's zone, they would have to enroll at PS 214 in Flushing.

Late Thursday, the Education Department promised to reverse the decision and add an extra class.

"I'm very happy they did this. I just wish we wouldn't have to protest and put parents through this kind of agony," said Leonie Haimson, director of Class Size Matters. "There are many parents in the same situation who don't know how to reach out for help and are being turned away."

Schools had to cut an average of 5% from their budgets this year.

Many cut the number of teachers and consolidated classes. There are about 1,100 unfilled teacher vacancies.

The closure of kindergartens in city-funded day care centers pushed at least 3,000 more kindergartners into the public schools this school year.

Teachers union officials said their reports showed the problem is worse this year than last.

"Every child deserves to be in a classroom that is small enough so they can get individual attention," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

"It's what parents want, it's what teachers want and it's what children need."

A DOE spokesman said it's impossible to get an accurate picture of class sizes after a week of school.

"As they do every year, the number of classes exceeding the contractual limit will decline dramatically in the coming weeks as enrollment stabilizes and principals add new classrooms to accommodate all of their students," William Havemann said.

Citywide, more than 5,300 high school classes were over the limit, and more than 1,800 middle and elementary school classes had more than the limit of 32 students per class.

Daniel Kounin, 16, an 11th-grader at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, where more than 200 classes are overcrowded, said he only got into an Advanced Placement class only after the teacher kicked out another student.

"Teachers can't pay attention to all the students," Daniel said. "If someone in the class has a problem in one area, she can't stop to help him. She has to stay on the curriculum."

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