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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Dear parents: Your child's classes might change

14

September

For 20 days, the Pasco County school district counted students. It determined how many are in each school and each classroom, period by period.

Principals tried to make sure every class met state rules for student-to-teacher ratios. Where the effort didn't work, listen to the music and the shifting chairs.

"This may mean that your child’s schedule is changed or that your child is moved into a new classroom with a different teacher," superintendent Heather Fiorentino wrote in a letter to all parents last week. "Principals will communicate these changes to impacted students and parents as quickly as possible. ... I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause your child or family.  While I wish we had the flexibility to avoid this unfortunate situation, we are working diligently to ensure a productive and successful school year for everyone."

Read the superintendent's full letter below. Then answer me this: Is this happening in your school? What are your thoughts about this scenario? Does it affect your views on Amendment 8?

September 10, 2010

Dear Parent/Guardian,

I want to make you aware of a situation that may impact your child over the coming weeks.  As you may know, the Florida Constitution requires class-by-class level compliance with class size limits in core academic areas for this school year.  There are no exceptions to this requirement.   Under the current law, the District does not have the flexibility to make common sense decisions about the best placement of students if those placements jeopardize a school or classroom’s class size status.  

The state will conduct a class size audit in October.  If one class in our District (e.g. one math class at one of our schools) exceeds the class size requirements, the entire District will be deemed non-compliant by the state.  Non-compliant districts are subject to severe financial penalties from the state.  Since our District is already facing a $28 million shortfall for this school year, we simply cannot afford financial penalties for failing to meet class size. 

Our District worked hard over the summer to project where we would need more teachers and planned accordingly.  We were forced to make difficult decisions about our school choice process, and the ability to accommodate requests for specific teachers or courses has been limited.   This has been an extremely difficult process, and we are not yet finished. 

While most classrooms are compliant, there are individual classrooms throughout our District that currently exceed the limit.  We understand the importance of continuity for students, and have tried everything within our power to minimize the disruption in classrooms.  Unfortunately, the classes that exceed their limits must be addressed in order to comply with the law. 

Beginning next week (after our 20-day student count), we will be making adjustments in order to ensure that every classroom is class size compliant.   This may mean that your child’s schedule is changed or that your child is moved into a new classroom with a different teacher.  Principals will communicate these changes to impacted students and parents as quickly as possible.  Our goal is to ensure a smooth transition for all students.

I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause your child or family.  While I wish we had the flexibility to avoid this unfortunate situation, we are working diligently to ensure a productive and successful school year for everyone.  Should you have any questions about the state’s class size requirements or this transition period, please do not hesitate to contact our District’s Communications & Government Relations Department at 727-774-2717, 813-794-2717 or 352-524-2717. 

Sincerely,

Heather Fiorentino

Superintendent
 

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:58pm]

    

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