31 kids to a class: Teachers say Seattle kindergarten is recipe for disaster

SEATTLE – A Seattle School District directive has parents and teachers of Loyal Heights Elementary upset. They said they are being told to rework every classroom to save a single salary; a move that they said would be disruptive to the entire school with educational and social impacts for students.

“We need to know Monday what the plan is because I cannot keep lying to these parents and loving their children knowing they are going to be ripped away from me,” Tricia Lepse is a kindergarten teacher at Loyal Heights. She talked to dozens of parents at Broadview Library in Seattle Saturday afternoon.

“Thursday I met with another 10 families. I smiled. I said, ‘loyal heights is the best place for your child, I am excited to have them in my classroom,’” she recounted. She said she said this to the parents of 31 children, “knowing that some of those families were not going to be staying.”

The Loyal Heights kindergarten is overcrowded and the district knows it, said staff. They have 88 students enrolled in kindergarten divided among three teachers.

“We knew that we were going to be overcrowded in kindergarten. We knew that we were going to be averaging 30 kids,” said Katherine Gaffney, an elementary teacher at Loyal Heights. The Washington state Legislative class size is much lower, between 22 – 24 kindergarteners per teacher.

She said the district told her to expect another kindergarten teacher once they had hard counts on enrollment, bringing classroom sizes down to 22 students to one teacher. She said they were told they would be forced to deal with overcrowding for one to two weeks.

“Until a couple of days ago, we were informed the district isn’t going to give us a new kindergarten teacher, they were going to take an existing teacher from our staff and place them in kindergarten.”

She explained that the teacher’s class who moves to kindergarten, would need to be absorbed by other teachers.

“That would start a ripple effect through our entire building,” she said. “It wouldn’t be half 1st grade or half 2nd grade in one classroom, it could be 90% one grade 10% the other grade, but the teacher would still be expected to teach the curriculum for both grade levels.”

“The blow back from that is going to be enormous,” said one concerned parent. “It’s supposed to be every student, every classroom, every day, but not at Loyal Heights,” said another speaking to a school board member at the Library.

He said he can’t promise he’ll get a response from the district, or a change from the new teacher plan.

“I am asking you I am begging you please don’t disrupt our school,” said Lepse. “I feel like I am being asked to be professional and warm and loving with absolutely no support from my school district. And I can’t take it anymore.”

Q13 News reached out to the Seattle school district for comment, we had not heard back by the time this story went to air.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 22.