Seattle may transfer teachers from one school or grade to another this year — weeks after school starts — because of wrong enrollment projections.
Like last year, Seattle Public Schools may reassign some teachers three weeks into the school year, and create additional split-grade classes.
The district says it needs to make adjustments because it underestimated how many students would arrive on the first day. Last year, the district said it had to reassign about two dozen staff members because it overestimated enrollment.
This fall, enrollment is about 53,000 students. Because of the increase, staff members may be added to a number of schools, but that could mean other schools will lose a staff member.
The district isn’t yet saying who might move or where — principals will receive that information Monday. Schools with lower-than-projected enrollment will have until Oct. 3 to identify which people will be moved, according to a letter sent to school leaders from Michael Tolley, associate superintendent for teaching and learning.
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Based on parent outcry in the past over moving teachers after the school year starts, the Seattle School Board had set aside $2 million to minimize the number of teachers who would have to move.
It’s unclear whether that will be enough to avoid all moves this year.
Seattle Education Association President Phyllis Campano said parents should be frustrated at the state, rather than the district, because the state determines the funding. Either way, she said, it’s difficult for teachers.
“It’s so important to build that relationship (between teacher and student) at the beginning of the year,” she said. “Then having it be a month in, after you build those relationships, and you have to rebuild it with someone else. That gets really frustrating.”
At a School Board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Larry Nyland said the new state requirement to lower class sizes in kindergarten through grade 3 also is forcing the district to make changes. In order to receive additional state funding, K-3 classes must have between 20 and 25 students, depending on the grade and whether the school is classified as “high poverty.”
To accommodate that requirement, some schools may have to mix grade levels in a single class.
At Loyal Heights Elementary, for example, there are only three teachers for nearly 90 kindergarten students. Because fewer students than projected are enrolled in second and fifth grades, the school still isn’t bigger than projected, but the students aren’t equally spread among the grades, said Jon Halfaker, executive director of schools for the northwest region, at the board meeting.
Rather than hire an additional kindergarten teacher, parents have been told the school may move an upper-grade teacher to kindergarten. That would force the school to reconfigure nearly every grade, Principal Wayne Floyd said at the meeting.
In response to an announcement to Loyal Heights parents last week, dozens of parents have sent emails to district officials and held a protest Tuesday outside Loyal Heights’ temporary space at the John Marshall building near Green Lake.
Parents protested last year, too, outside district headquarters, and at some schools they tried to raise money to keep teachers. A group of 11 Seattle-area lawmakers also wrote a letter to the School Board asking them to postpone the readjustments.
Parent Brian Jones even donated $70,000 to Alki Elementary in West Seattle so the school could avoid losing a teacher. Even though Jones isn’t a parent at the school, he said at the time that he gave the money to send a message.
Now, however, his family is experiencing the reshuffling firsthand: His daughter attends Loyal Heights.
“I don’t think anyone is against split classes, they can be great,” Jones said. “But we as parents don’t want our children moved around and disrupted. No parent is OK with that three weeks into the school year.”
This story has been updated to reflect new district numbers.