HARLINGEN — Musical chairs.
It’s a really fun game, but it’s no joke when you replace the chairs with impressionable children who need structure and consistency.
State law requires classes for children in kindergarten through fourth grade to have 22 students for each teacher. This law serves a necessary purpose for keeping classes small so teachers can give more time to each student.
However, strict adherence to this rule sometimes works against its purpose.
“We’ll all of a sudden get students from out of district that we weren’t anticipating and so we’ll have a classroom that ends up being 23:1,” said Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the district.
The children would be shuffled to another classroom, creating some serious disruption. This is why the Harlingen school district requested, and received, an exemption from this requirement as a District of Innovation.
“That 22:1 continues to always be our goal,” Noyola said. “We understand the importance of small class size and that’s why the state has a 22:1 ratio.”
In the best of all possible worlds, this would be the class size each year with no trouble. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.
“We’ve actually had to move teachers from one campus and bring them over to another one,” she said. “Then I’d have to reshuffle kids. I’m going to bring five kids from this class, another four from this class, another three from this class.”
Now with the exemption, the district can look at each situation in which a class has 23 or 24 children. They may do some reorganizing, or they may take a different tack.
“You know what,” they can say now. “We’re going to leave that 23 to one. We’re not going to disrupt kids’ lives for one extra student in the classroom.”
She emphasized, however, the district won’t allow those classes to go above 25 students. In that case, some major reorganization is in order to keep the classes small. It is, as they say, all about the kids.