Overcrowding: Update on Parent Efforts
Dear Oxford Community, November 17, 2014
In an effort to alleviate the stress overcrowding is putting on Oxford, both currently and in future years, a group of Oxford parents have reached out to the school district to advocate that we are able to keep our class sizes at appropriate BSEP levels, and to ensure that future years do not balloon to class sizes which we are currently experiencing our “balloon” grades. Below is an update for parents to more fully understand the efforts we’ve made. We have also included our communication with the Superintendent on this matter.
Here is a quick summary of what has been done to advocate Oxford so far:
1. Letter sent to Dr. Evans, BUSD Superintendent (text of letter copied below).
2. Meeting with Dr. Evans and Mr. Martinez, head of enrollment for BUSD.
- Erin, Sabrina, Deirdre, Renata attended.
- Mr. Martinez offered to avoid adding any more midyear transfers to our 3rd grade cohort.
- Dr. Evans is open to one less kinder class next year if district crowding solutions allow.
- Both willing to meet with us again in February/March.
- Thank you letter sent
3. About 15–20 Oxford parents attended board meeting on Nov 5th.
- Jennifer Choi spoke on behalf of the 3rd grade class.
- Amy Garlin spoke on behalf of room 9.
- The board seemed to really listen to all our speakers.
- During the discussion they mentioned the need to preserve Oxford’s room 9 several times and the potential need to recount the number of kinder classes needed.
- At the end of the meeting Renata spoke to thank them all and underscore the request to have one less kinder class at Oxford next year (which would require a recount of rooms they need to add).
- We think Oxford will be on their minds when considering options but we can not take for granted that our needs will be given priority.
4. Potential next steps — please add, remove, and offer to volunteer as you are inspired.
- Update the broader Oxford community via newsletter(s) about what has been done.
- Send thank you letter to the board for considering our needs.
- Visit Ty Alper to bring him up to speed on our issues and request.
- Attend December and January board meetings, plan to speak again.
- Request a follow-up meeting with Evans and Martinez to keep them on-board with enrollment limits for our 3rd grade cohort.
Dr. Donald Evans October 27, 2014
Berkeley Unified School District
2020 Bonar St. Ste. 322
Berkeley, CA 94702
Dear Dr. Evans,
Thank you for the opportunity to have our Oxford Elementary 3rd grade parent representatives meet with you. We are eager to work in concert with you and your office to seek ways to alleviate the current and impending overcrowding in our school and district. Starting in 2015, our current 3rd grade class will be collapsed into two 4th grade classes with 34.5 students in each class. This untenable ratio is 8.5 students over the BSEP average. This is not simply a one year problem: The issue will persist into 5th grade, and Oxford’s current 1st grade students will face the same situation when they reach 4th grade.
This incredibly high ratio of 34.5:1 will clearly put our students and their teachers at a disadvantage. The greatest long term consequences will be suffered by those with the least resources. About 10% of our current student body are students with IEPs. Additionally, in the current 3rd grade class, there is a disproportionate number of students who require significant academic and behavioral support. Considering the district’s commitment to Equity (of course in addition to Excellence, Engagement and Enrichment), we know that you share our concern for these students most of all.
Of course, the entire student body is impacted by overcrowding because of our small campus. We currently have a student body of 304 students. For years, Oxford has kept pace with the growth in enrollment by using limited space in creative ways, including permanent use of hallways for individual student support. The numbers within the classroom walls are already dangerously tight. Classroom are already at capacity with 22 students and adding 11 more desks, students, backpacks, jackets, and unique learning styles seems unimaginable. This will also have a ripple effect on already-overcrowded shared space, consequently affecting yard safety, cafeteria scheduling, car traffic, and the ability of the school to conduct all-school assemblies and community events. Our teachers and staff are talented, flexible, and dedicated but we have reached a critical tipping point where student success is compromised by space and staffing limitations.
It is imperative that we act now to prepare for the 2015-16 school year. We offer the following requests and suggested solutions:
- Create three 4th grade classes for 2015-16 to meet BSEP class size standards.
- Limit incoming kindergarten to two Kinder classes for 2015-2016 to make room for the three 4th grade classes.
- Avoid combination classrooms for the current 3rd grade class. Given the extremely divergent needs of this class, this would hinder learning for everyone.
Our principal, Beth Rhine, leads our school with great skill and professionalism. She is our third principal in five years and has quickly put her arms around our community and students. We value her leadership greatly. Likewise, our teachers are doing an admirable job in their work with all the students. More must be done to support them, and containing class size is the most important first step.
The Oxford parent community stands ready and eager to work with you and the Board in any way we can to implement short-term improvements and longer-term plans. We look forward to a dialogue on this issue.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Oxford 3rd grade parents
Oxford 1st grade parents