Rachel Kargas is a parent at Oakland’s Cleveland Elementary School, where fewer children enrolled this fall than expected because of a nearby school’s kindergarten expansion. She tells us how this shortage has led to last-minute combination classes, and what she fears that will mean for students. How has the numbers game affected your school? — Katy
My son is a first grader at Cleveland Elementary. We have enjoyed the school thus far; it is a high-performing school with a wonderfully diverse population. My son had a great kindergarten experience at Cleveland.
On day one of first grade we were informed that my son would be placed in a mixed first- and second- grade class. This came as a shock to many parents. We had been given no advance warning about this class structure, and it appeared the teacher was almost equally surprised. After several weeks the second graders were moved out of the classroom, but now we are told that due to a shortage of students at Cleveland, they will be eliminating a kindergarten teacher and forming a combined first grade/kindergarten class.
As a parent of a student who will likely be affected by this decision, I am appalled. While I understand that combination classes are successful in some districts, I am concerned that this model is being executed in haste, and the teachers have not had time to properly prepare for the challenges of a mixed grade class. I worry about the size of the class and the divided attention of the teacher who will suddenly need to teach two curriculums. I am left feeling a lack of confidence that my child will receive the education he deserves.
We moved to our neighborhood because Cleveland had a reputation as a high-performing school. I now feel that we are being treated as a second-rate institution, lacking the support and funding to continue to be successful. This situation and reputation may very well discourage future parents from choosing to send their children to Cleveland.
Cleveland lost many students after Crocker Highlands Elementary School opened up an additional kindergarten class due to demand. As a result, slots have opened up at our school, but families who were previously turned away from Cleveland are now sending their children elsewhere. We would like to give those families the opportunity to enroll their children in Cleveland, thus eliminating the need to restructure our school.
We have a large group of concerned parents who are hoping to persuade OUSD to halt their plans to combine first grade and kindergarten classes and consider other solutions. Our children deserve it.