MARCO ISLAND — Due to the harrowing task of planning new classes, securing new teachers and predicting possible enrollment, Tommie Barfield Elementary (TBE) Principal Jory Westberry urges parents to register their children as soon as possible.
“For example, if I know now that I need seven teachers in kindergarten, I can hire those teachers now while there are many applicants to choose from. If 36 additional students enroll on the first day of school and two more classes are needed, we are in a pickle,” she said.
“Not only will the top teachers be hired already, but we would also have to set up additional classrooms and revamp the entire schedule to provide for these additional classes.”
She said that if that same scenario played out toward the end of September, rather than the first day of school, it would be difficult to find another teacher and to move students from their existing classes to different classes in order to balance the pupil to teacher ratio and conform to the law.
“If all kindergarten classes had their maximum of 18 and one more student registered, the principal would have to hire another teacher and reorganize the students into the new teacher’s room to balance the number of students,” she added.
For now, with the deafening silence of empty school hallways, the custodial crew at TBE is busy moving teachers’ belongings into new classroom space.
“I have been working on creating a new classroom from what were three smaller spaces used for Exceptional Student Education specialty classes. I will be opening the partitions to make one large space,” said Gerardo Guzman, plant operator.
“The new classrooms will house either existing staff or be used for several new staff members who will start in August. We are also at work cleaning carpets, waxing floors and preparing to install two new more energy efficient 150 ton chillers.”
Westberry said that the new classroom arrangements are also necessary to comply with the Class Size Reduction Amendment guidelines set in motion in 2002. Via a state constitutional amendment, the state legislature asked citizens to vote on whether or not class sizes should be limited.
The populous agreed and the class sizes were limited in core classes like math, reading and science. For elementary schools, the maximum number of students is 18 for kindergarten to grade three and 22 students for grades four to eight.
“During the 2010-2011 school year, the guidelines stated that we could use a grade level average for the class size reduction, so we were in compliance with this step in the process. This coming year, we have to comply fully with the class size maximums in each classroom,” said Westberry.
“While related arts classes are not bound by the class size guidelines, at TBE, we strive to keep those classes at a reasonable number for the benefit of the students.”
As for the benefits of class size reduction, Westberry said that as Florida class sizes have decreased, the scores on state testing have increased.
“I’m not sure that you could attribute the increase to class size reduction. It could be due to hiring better teachers or having more professional development or technology to reach students in more productive ways,” she noted.
“However, the biggest benefit is to students who need and are able to get more individual help than if they were in a class of 30 or 35 students with one teacher. I think the subgroups like foreign students and our minority students would also experience the same benefits from having more time and help from the professional educator.”
While schools are not in session, the Collier County Administration Center is now enrolling students for next school year.
According to the Collier Schools Web site, basic enrollment requires three proofs of residency: a Florida Immunization Certificate, a physical examination (if a new Florida resident) and proof of age.
If a child is being registered for the first time in Florida, they must have a certificate of physical examination performed within twelve (12) months prior to enrollment as well as documentation of current immunizations, which is a Florida Department of Health Certificate of Immunization (DH 680), the only document schools accept as proof of immunization.
Physicals may be performed by a private physician or from the Collier County Health Department who also provides immunizations free of charge. In addition, students entering Pre-K to grade 12 must show proof of age.
For Your Information
COLLIER COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER
Where: 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples
Contact: (239) 377-0505 or www.collierschools.com (under “Parent Links” on the left side bar, click “Enrollment Info.”)