Parents at Mark Keppel Elementary School are protesting the Glendale Unified School District's plan to eliminate two classes from the campus and to distribute their students among other classes.
After seven weeks of school, enrollment at Keppel is nearly 100 students short of the 1,257 projected for this year, and Supt. Robert A. Sanchis said he had to transfer the teachers to comply with the school board's policy of staffing schools at a ratio of 29.9 students per teacher.
But more than 350 parents whose children go to the school--one of the six elementary schools in the district now on a year-round plan--have signed petitions asking the Board of Education to override Sanchis' decision.
The petition argues that students are already struggling to adjust to the new year-round system, and they don't need the added hardship of switching teachers during the school year.
"Losing the teachers at this point is disturbing," said Cathye Curreri, a parent who has been gathering signatures before and after school. "There is a relationship built up between students and teachers--every teacher has a different approach. The kids that are moving will either have to play catch-up or they will be ahead of their class."
Curreri presented the petitions to the school board Tuesday night. Board members expressed sympathy, but promised no assistance, blaming the state budget crisis for the shortage of funds to hire teachers.
At a meeting at the school Monday night, Sanchis had given a similar message to about 80 parents. He said that the changes were necessary and would not be overly disruptive.
Sanchis said the district's 9-year-old staffing policy was established in the interest of equity, so that some schools don't end up with lower student-to-teacher ratios than others.
Without the transfers, Keppel would have 26.3 students per teacher, Principal Gordon Morse said. Meanwhile, he said, other schools in the district have already exceeded projected enrollment and need more teachers to reduce their average class size to the target level.
Sanchis said that the district doesn't have enough money to maintain the classes at Keppel and hire new teachers to meet the shortfall at other schools. One Keppel teacher is being transferred to Mountain Avenue Elementary School. Reassignment of a substitute within the school will result in the closing of a second class.
"I understand you would like to have lower class size and not to have your children moved," he said. "I understand that. It is not a pleasant decision. But we attempt to keep the same average class size at all schools in the district and we cannot have flexibility in terms of that formula."
As a result of the transfers, about 177 Keppel students are either being assigned to different teachers or are being changed from a single grade-level class to a combination class, Morse said.
Morse said that shuffling teachers and classes in the first weeks of school is nothing new for the students.
He said that staffing for a school is based on projected enrollment. After school begins, adjustments may be made if actual enrollment doesn't match projected figures.
"The only thing new we are doing is year-round education," Morse said. "In past years, I have had to transfer teachers out and I have had to transfer teachers in and it means shuffling the students around.
"At first, sure, it's probably a little trauma--maybe they have liked their teacher or their friend goes somewhere else, but I find that students adjust pretty well," he said.
But many parents said they think some special consideration should be given this year, because many parents are already concerned about the year-round schedule.
"You have asked a lot of us parents, to adjust to something we are not used to," said Lesya Makuch, who has two daughters at Keppel. "You are dealing with little children. They have a system, a routine down with their teacher. Are we now going to upset that routine?"