Class sizes will increase in SJ schools

June 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some of the youngest students in San Jose public schools will be faced with big changes when school starts again. There were drastic cost-cutting measures approved Thursday night.

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The meeting was quite emotional as the board approved new student-teacher ratios for the younger levels. It is one of the first of many districts in Santa Clara County to make this unpopular move.

"I am sure none of you want to see our children hurt," says parent Sherri Alashari.

The choices were painful at the San Jose Unified school board meeting. The district has a $27 million budget deficit. One way to save $6 million is to increase class sizes for kindergarteners to second graders from 20 students per class to 30.

"To put 4-year-olds in a 30 to 1 environment is not good," says kindergarten teacher Gretchen Jung.

"Class size reduction is obviously crucial to kids being successful. In the lower grades are the foundation for how kids are going to do later," says parent Lisa Vieler.

"If we don't consider this type of change in the number of students per class, we are going to be looking at reducing the school year for everybody, kindergarten through seniors in high school," says the district's Ann Jones.

The school board thought a shorter school year would negatively impact too many students. Still, parents and teachers offered other suggestions like salary freezes and furloughs, but in the end, the board voted unanimously to increase class sizes.

"I started to get teary-eyed because I think this will gravely affect our children," says parent Elizabeth Leamy.

"All four of my children all had 30 to 1 in their classes; they did not suffer for that. So it's a myth that 20 to 1 going away is going to be detrimental to the children," says school board member Veronica Lewis.

But what is a fact is the loss of 96 teachers -- a direct result of the night's cost-saving vote.

"I'm concerned with losing my job because I will be one of the ones let go," says teacher Allison Medlin.

Dave Trejo has six young grandchildren in the school district that face larger class sizes when they return to school. It's the dreaded trickle down effect from the worsening state budget crisis.

"Why focus on the schools? It's just something I don't understand why they do that," says Trejo. "It's not the kids', childrens' fault and yet they suffer for it."

Teachers are hoping more parent volunteers could eventually help the situation, but many feel education is once again paying the price for chronic funding issues.

Layoff notices will begin going out Friday. The district has until August 3rd to rescind them.

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