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Fillmore Elementary School parents worried about class overcrowding

Parents at Fillmore Elementary School in Lompoc are upset about recent changes in class sizes. The Lompoc Unified School District (LUSD) is consolidating kindergarten classes on that campus.

On Friday, Sara Limas found out her five year-old’s class was getting nixed.

“She’s gonna be affected by this class being dissolved and all the kids being overcrowded.”

LUSD is re-assigning a kindergarten teacher to the 4th grade, dispersing her current students into other existing kindergarten classrooms. That leaves three kinder classes with 22-23 kids per room starting next week. Currently, there are about 17 kids per classroom.

“Kindergartners do better in small classroom environments,” the Lompoc mom complained about the change.

LUSD Assistant S uperintendent John Karbula explained the move comes after a surge in 4th grade enrollments this 2018-19 school year.

“The kindergarten numbers here were lower than anticipated. By moving one of those teachers to 4th grade we got close to the cap in kindergarten, and we got under the cap in 4 th grade.”

The cap for kinder classrooms is 22; the cap for 4th grade classrooms is 33. With the changes, only one kindergarten class will be over capacity by enrolling 23 students.

One Fillmore Elementary School teacher said 22-23 students is already a high enrollment, though.

“W e generally get within the first few weeks a few more students trickling in, so [classes] will probably be over-capped as well,” he explained. The teacher asked to remain anonymous in fear of facing retaliation by LUSD.

Parents like Limas think the District should’ve looked for other solutions.

“A 4th grade teacher should be hired. I think that the kindergartners should not just be dollar signs.”

Other Fillmore Elementary school teachers agree with her.

“They’re reducing our class sizes which is great,” a 4th grade teacher who also asked to remain anonymous said. “But they’re creating an overcrowded kindergarten as a result.”

This teacher said the change will also force students to lose what they’ve learned over the past two weeks since the semester began.

“You develop attachments. These kids are eight and nine years-old and they have developed a relationship with me, they’ve learned my routines and now they have to be shuffled to another classroom and start all over again. They’re losing two weeks of instruction.”

Educators said it also poses a challenge for the kindergarten teacher who has been re-assigned to the 4th grade.

“She’s being removed from 18 years of kinder experience,” another Fillmore Elementary colleague shared.

Karbula said this decision was a collaborative process that looped teachers in the decision-making, though.

“The principal has been meeting with the teachers about this situation and they’re a part of this whole entire process. There’s always imbalances, and the whole process is designed to re-balance either students, or teachers so that you’re as close as you can get to being at -or under- the cap in every single class.”

The Assistant Superintendent also reiterated LUSD’s commitment to their students.

“We’re always gonna put the interests of kids first. We are parents, too.”

Meanwhile, some parents at Fillmore Elementary School started collecting signatures on Friday to contest LUSD’s decision.

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