Fewer teachers, more students in Gilbert classrooms

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by Tanya Mendis

Bio | Email | Follow: @tanyamendis

azfamily.com

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 16 at 10:38 AM

GILBERT, Ariz. – As if your average public school classroom isn't crowded enough, Gilbert is getting ready to cram in more desks.

On the middle and high school level, each class is going to have three extra students. That means some classes could see as many as 35 kids in a room.

"I'm hearing numbers now for this upcoming August of 35, 40 in a class," said Highland High School teacher Donna Carrie. "I don't know how you can fit 40 in a class and I don't know how you can do a good job when you have 40 in a class."

That's soon to be the new normal.

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board approved a budget Tuesday that cuts 80 teaching positions plus a dozen or more support staff.

"If we have to cut millions of dollars, that's where we have to cut," said Jill Humpherys with the Gilbert school board.

The teacher cuts mean Gilbert middle and high schools will now have a ratio of 27 kids for every one teacher -- three more than they had this year. But that doesn't mean there are only 27 kids in the class.

"When they say 27 to 1, I don't have 27 kids in my class," said Elizabeth Schley, who is resigning from Gilbert Schools.

School administrators said 27 is the low end and factors in some of the smaller, specialty classrooms.

The reality for the average class is much higher.

"I had upward of 35 kids in my class and it's very difficult in a 49-minute period to really reach all of them and really make sure they all understand it before they leave," Schley said.

Many teachers tried to make their voices heard with the Gilbert school board but lost.

Humpherys was one of two who voted in support of the $6 million override that would have saved the teaching positions.

"It is concerning when we're losing great teachers and great capacity for helping our students," Humpherys said.

So even though the enrollment in Gilbert Public Schools actually dropped by more than 300 students last year, because of these cuts almost every classroom is guaranteed to see more kids.

Humpherys said when students go back to school the average classroom will have 32 or 33 kids, but next year, if there's no override money, there could be 35.

3TV tried reaching out to the interim superintendent for comment, but he wasn't available.

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