Pasco schools seek class size solutions

Nearly two months into the academic year, several Pasco County schools continue to struggle meeting state class size requirements.

A recently created report indicates hundreds of classrooms across the district that exceeded the constitutional caps by at least one student. School Board members said they had received calls of classes with 40 or more students — a situation most prevalent at Fivay High, which absorbed more than 500 teens from Ridgewood High and did not fill all its teaching vacancies.

Assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley said Tuesday the administration has been reviewing scheduling at all schools, and continues to hire more teachers while reassigning some to campuses with the greatest class size concerns.

“We’re still making massive changes in the scheduling system” leading to the state’s official 40-day count next week, Shibley said.

That could mean students might have to change courses or teachers as the district readjusts to meet the state mandate, which it already eases somewhat by using school averages rather than classroom counts. It does so by taking advantage of the state rule for “schools of choice,” which Pasco officials say include all their schools.

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Most principals are trying to avoid shifting students, Shibley said, instead looking to leave classes as-is and embed co-teachers or other supports into those rooms to meet the requirement. They don’t want to split classes if at all possible, he said.

One likely exception, though, is Fivay High, which has struggled to find enough teachers this year. It had more vacancies than any other school over the summer, and at least two math positions advertised before classes began remained open on Tuesday.

Some jobs went without a single applicant, said Tammy Berryhill, assistant superintendent for high schools.

As a result, some teachers were seeing 42 teens or more in a period.

Fivay has done some rescheduling, with the support of its faculty, to make sure its students don’t go long periods without a qualified instructor, Berryhill said.

Its math department, for instance, has agreed to collapse classes and take on added classes for extra pay, she said, while still retaining their daily planning. Assistants and aides help with the classroom management, she explained.

By the end of the week, Fivay should have most of its teaching posts filled, Berryhill said — including additional positions made necessary because of its increased population.

That will mean new sections, “so classes will change,” Berryhill said.

The district plans to review its class size compliance again after Oct. 12. It also has scheduled an instructional job fair for Nov. 14, to get an early look at fall college graduates who might be seeking work for the second semester.