Teaching shortage to push Danville classroom past capacity limit

Local News

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA)– Some parents in Danville are frustrated over the increased number of students assigned to several classrooms.

John Hart, the Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools said a teacher shortage coupled with record low enrollment at Southwest Elementary School led to the need to combine classes.

A parent forwarded WCIA a letter sent out from Southwest Elementary Principal Johnathan Rossi on Monday addressing parents and guardians of one of the affected classrooms. It will hold 29 fourth graders starting next Monday (Nov. 15).

That’s the biggest class out of all of the newly combined classes, according to Hart. He said the district’s maximum number of students in one class is 28 but they had to make an exception.

Six elementary classes across the district are being taught by substitute teachers, according to Hart, and since enrollment at Southwest Elementary is at an all-time low, there are some classes with just 14 or 15 students. Starting Monday, the district will combine some of those classes to allow all students to be taught by a licensed teacher, Hart said.

“It’s not ideal for teachers, it’s not ideal for administration, it’s not ideal for students but we really believe, after a year and a half of the COVID[-19] pandemic, kids kind of being in school, school off, remote instruction, that we really felt like they were going to best be served by licensed teachers,” he explained.

Hart said this plan will also free up substitute teachers to fill in as needed.

A couple of parents contacted WCIA this morning. They were frustrated with the change and concerned about social distancing in these new, larger classes.

Hart said Rossi is considering moving the largest class to the old art room at Southwest Elementary. It’s the largest classroom in the building. Hart also assured us all classes would be able to maintain proper distance between desks.

“It’s nice to hear people’s concerns and be able to have a conversation,” he added.

Enrollment at Southwest Elementary is lower than ever, according to Hart.

At its peak, he said the school was teaching 425 students. That was about a decade ago. These days the school has 208 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 4th grade.

It’s partially to do with a decrease in population in the city and parents who remain fearful of sending their kids to school during a pandemic, Hart said.

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