‘This is going to be difficult’ — DCPS to increase class sizes amid teacher shortage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Teachers at Duval County Public Schools are learning they’ll be instructing more students in each class this coming school year.

This comes as the district continues to try to fill hundreds of teacher openings.

DCPS teacher Elwood Thompson just learned his classes will likely grow in size as the district battles the teacher shortage.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene sent an email to DCPS teachers and staff saying K-through-eighth grade classes will increase by an average of 1.5 students, and ninth-through-twelfth grade classes, by one student.

“When you say 1.5, that’s an average. I may have a class with 12 students. But then I may have a class with 40 students,” Thompson said.

He worries the larger classes will leave students not getting as much one-on-one teacher attention.

“The smaller the class ratio, the better it is for students. The more you can give that contact that you need,” he said. “This is going to be difficult.”

In the email Thompson received, Greene said the district is also transferring close to 30 teachers to different schools in order to fill classes.

She says there will also be certified teachers in non-teaching positions available to cover classes, and district administrators serving as substitute teachers.

Last week, Greene told Action News Jax the district is doing everything with students in mind.

“Our goal is — as much as possible — to meet the class size reduction. But again, my number one priority is assuring our students have a certified teacher in front of them, and we will do everything possible to support our educators and our students and try to meet the class size reduction amendment. If we cannot, then we will write a plan on how we will address that,” she said.

Thompson feels the district is doing its best.

“I want to make sure that this is clear: the district is in a hard position. The state, the funding shifts, sending more money to the charters… it makes it where we don’t have the money for the staffing that we need,” he said.

In 2002, voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution, limiting the number of students in core classes.

Florida statutes say teachers should have up to 22 students for core classes in grades 4 through 8, and 25 students for grades 9 through 12.

As for Thompson, he’s hoping voters next month will approve the district’s proposed one-mill property tax increase, which DCPS says would help bring more teachers in the door.

“Hopefully this millage will pass and that will give us some local financial incentive to help retain and recruit certified, qualified teachers,” Thompson said.

Action News Jax asked the district if it’ll lose funding or face any repercussions from the Department of Education as a result of the class size increases. We are still waiting for a response.

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