Mishawaka Superintendent responds to class size concerns

Mishawaka, Ind. Some Mishawaka parents say School City is failing its students by placing them in overcrowded classrooms.

Four people spoke out about the issue during Tuesday night’s school board meeting, asking for a solution.

“We have a lot of kids that have been bullied in some places,” said Jack Staner, a 5th grader at LaSalle Elementary. “And, that's because of oversized classrooms.”

Jack is one of 32 students who share just one teacher. His mother, Karen Zillmer, shared her concerns with the board at a previous meeting. But, she says she got no response.

So, she brought the issue up again Tuesday.

“The kids that need help aren’t getting the help,” Zillmer said Tuesday. Kids that are excelling are having to put on the brakes because they’re helping other students because teachers can’t do it.”

Heather Kruger says that’s the case in her daughter’s advanced math class, which tops out at 42 students. Kruger says the three top-performing students help others who are struggling because the teacher can’t give one-on-one attention to everyone.

“32 in a class is ridiculous, 42 is shameful,” she said. “Overcrowded classrooms create overwhelmed teachers and undereducated children.”

Superintendent Dr. Terry Barker responded to the concerns during the meeting, saying schools across the state are in a tough place. Without additional funding, he says they can’t hire more teachers to bring class sizes down.

“Any parent that feels their child is in a classroom with too many students in it, we will allow them to request a voluntary transfer,” Barker said.

Those requests will be granted as long as they don’t negatively impact the class size of the other schools.

Barker says there are about 13 classrooms that have 30 or more students.

But, the option for students to transfer doesn’t satisfy Zillmer or her son. She says it’s unfair and unrealistic.

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