Class size exceeds space

Lucia Baglivio, Managing Editor

This year’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition summer assignment amounted to a 17 page journal consisting of 17 quotes, 17 prompt answers, and 17 analyses. For 17-year-old junior Michaela Vine, any of the summer work completed was a waste of time. Vine was less than pleased when she received a phone call from guidance about two weeks before school started to find out she would be enrolled in English III Honors, rather than AP.

“[My guidance counselor] was saying I could take a harder math class, drop yearbook, add an AP class, and other options in order to make AP Language fit with my schedule, and I wasn’t going to do that,” she said.

Students facing scheduling conflicts this year can attribute their inconveniences to the new Class Size Reduction Amendment. The act is one of the Florida Legislature, not our local school board, and is therefore implemented within all public schools state-wide. Middle school classes can have no more than 22 students in each class, and no more than 25 students for high school classes. Guidance counselor Dina McMillan has had two students who were not able to take an AP or social studies class because of the amendment.

“In theory [the class size amendment] sounds good,” she said. “It helps teachers teach better with smaller class sizes, but with budget cuts we can’t hire more teachers to teach classes students have been locked out of.”

Vine’s unexpected schedule change effected her school work before the year even began.
“I actually do the summer reading, but wasn’t too far with the AP work yet,” she said. “I quickly read Grapes of Wrath and wrote a bad essay.”

McMillan explained that West Shore isn’t as effected by the amendment as other schools, particularly elementary, because the amount of students is capped through the lottery.

“Local schools are effected more because they have to find a place for kids to go, no matter what,” McMillan said. “They’re even being creative and combining first and second grade classes, or third and fourth grades.”

Classes campus-wide have been forced to adjust to new ways due to the amendment. TV Productions teacher Maria Sotolongo says WCTZ news has had its share of stress already.

Instead of two classes sharing the task of producing the daily school news, Sotolongo’s third period class will compose the news alone this year.

“Since the news is now filmed in third period, we don’t have that extra 10 minutes during fourth period,” she said. “There is no backup for technical issues or equipment problems, so if [third period] doesn’t get it done, there is no news.”

Math teacher Debra Jerdon’s 34-student College Algebra class is the only class on campus with an exception to the amendment because it is a dual enrollment course through Brevard Community College.

“I don’t think it was fair how there was a loophole for this class,” Jerdon said. “The class should have been capped at a lower number.”

Although Jerdon doesn’t oppose the amendment, the fact that it was not implemented in her class has effected the learning environment.

“I’m in favor of it, it works for schools with lower learning levels and behavior problems, but the honors classes don’t need to be that small,” she said. “I like to play math scavenger hunt games on review days, but it’s not possible to have 34 bigger high school students walking around this room at the same time.”

Vine says the fact that her scheduling conflicts were a result of the amendment was unclear.

“My mom was trying to work it out, and [guidance] made it seem like it was just my classes that caused a problem with getting the right schedule. When I found out it was because of a new amendment and there just wasn’t room for me, I was annoyed,” she said.

McMillan says the amendment will not be repealed this school year because it took about five years for its approval alone. Vine is frustrated but coping with the situation.
“I’m mad,” Vine said. “I want to talk to my guidance counselor about doing my own work this year and taking the AP test in May anyways.”