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Three parents of incoming kindergarten students at Orrington Elementary School complained to a school board member Wednesday night about overcrowding in kindergarten classes there.

Meeting with board member Candance Chow at a Community Café at the Levy Center, the three said they were concerned to see classes of 28 or 29 students.

“There aren’t enough cubbies for all the kids. Some children have chairs with no backs,” one mother said. “It’s not comfortable or safe.”

The parents argued the district had allowed too many permissive transfers into Orrington.

The Opening of Schools Report showed 44 permissive transfers into Orrington but only 18 out. Distributed across six class years, that would work out to an average of about 1.5 extra kids in each kindergarten class.

The school district targets a class size goal of 21 to 25 students for kindergarten and the district-wide average at the start of this school year was 19.8 students.

Chow said a lot of factors influence enrollment and permissive transfers are used to help manage it. Orrington is one of four elementary schools in the district with an English as a Second Language program, which Chow said may be appropriate for students who live outside the school’s attendance area.

Under the district’s Limited School Choice Program, which includes permissive transfers, students already enrolled who applied for permissive transfer before Feb. 28 will receive a decision in May, before the end of the school year.

The decision for already enrolled students who applied after Feb. 28, or for newly registered students, will be made in July or August.

The parents at the meeting suggested that all permissive transfer decisions be delayed until July or August, when enrollment for the coming school year will be more certain.

The parents also suggested that permissive transfers not be granted to students going from under-enrolled schools to those that are overcrowded.

They also complained that the district had forecast an average kindergarten class size of 17.8 for Orrington, but ended up with an average of 24.7.

Most of that disparity is the result of the forecast anticipating there’d be four kindergarten teaches at Orrington, but the school ending up with only three.

The parents said the school has many children of professors or graduate students who arrive in September or even January and are added to already crowded classrooms.

Chow assured the parents that forecasting was based on trends over the last five to six years, but that they couldn’t accurately forecast how many families with school-age children might move into a school’s attendance area or how many children of professors or graduate students might arrive.

Chow said the district also takes into account the potential impact of new construction when projecting enrollment.

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6 Comments

  1. Number of teachers
    Thanks for the article. Seems like it all comes down to this one line: “Most of that disparity is the result of the forecast anticipating there’d be four kindergarten teaches at Orrington, but the school ending up with only three.”

    Assuming there is physical class space, they should look to add another for next year. Wasn’t it paying teachers to keep class sizes low what the huge tax increase was all about? Not about giving middle schoolers iPads….

    Given the avg class size for kindergarterners in the district is 17.8 children, I would agree with the Orrington parents that a class of 28 is absurd and it’s got to be extremely challenging for the teachers. Maybe they should consider permissive transfers of teachers at the beginning of the school year when things are out of whack. 😉

    1. How about we kill two birds

      How about we kill two birds with one stone and give all the Kindergartners iPads? 😉

  2. Orrington Class Size

    My child is due to enter Orrington in 2019, my wife and I are very concerned about the class sizes there. Classroom management is key at this stage and 25+ kids per class would challenge the best of teachers. This certainly wasn’t the scenario we imagined when we supported the tax increase.  Evanston cannot take its tax base for granted if it doesn’t deliver on services  This is area where the city and District 65 are not delivering.  

    One short-term solution might be to give would be Orrington kindergarten students preferred access to the TWI program to help rebalance the district.

    1. Racial equity is a No. 1 priority at D65
      Lincolnwood, which does not have TWI, had the same large classroom size problem a few years back. Parents organized and the principal and board members at the time just gave lip service as D65 spent money for additions to Willard, Dewey and two at Lincoln.

      Board members are focused on “racial equity” and “filling the gap” policies and that’s where a lot of money and resources are going. Example: D65 this year created two new positions — an executive director for black student success and an equity instructional coach.

      D65 is a public school social justice factory. To get the attention of D65 bureaucrats, perhaps Orrington parents should emphasize the harmful effects large classrooms have on minority students. It might perk some ears on the board. Just sayin.

      There are inexpensive private schools available. Evanston has two Catholic schools that provide a quality education in small classroom environments.

      1. How things change
        Gee, I always thought a good education was the goal of schools. I guess some in Evanston don’t think so. Maybe if schools focused on a good education that would not only be the basis for getting a good job [computers, science, math] but forming a knowing mind [English, literature, history] in all the schools, we would get graduates who could get jobs and live productive lives. Instead the focus is on “I’m O.K., Your O.K.”—as long as you agree with everything I believe, educational trends du jour, and “touchy feely” experiences for the schools.
        I suspect it won’t be long before residents realize the schools are not meeting the real needs of their children and opt for private schools and home schooling.

    2. Orrington

      Perhaps  Orrington has outlived it’s useful life? It’s a tiny overcrowded school and more than 100 years old. 

      I believe that the District does take overcrowding into consideration when enrolling in TWI.

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