OKEECHOBEE– The Okeechobee County School Board approved a temporary exceeding of maximum class sizes at schools in the district at their Nov. 17 meeting.
Previously, the maximum class size for kindergarten through third grade was 18; 22 in fourth through eighth; and, 25 in ninth through twelfth. Now those increase those numbers will be increased to 21, 27, and 30 respectively.
The measure was passed by a vote of 4-1. School Board member Malissa Morgan was the lone “No” vote.
The Okeechobee County School District says that the move will lead to less disruption of the educational process by reducing the need to move students and teachers to meet class size.
Okeechobee County Education Association (OCEA) President Jorje Botello encouraged OCEA teachers to reach out to the school board ahead of the meeting to let them know what this passing would mean and how it would impact teachers and students in the classroom.
“It is sad that the members of the board that voted in favor of this didn’t ask for a better resolution than just dumping more students into an already overcrowded classroom,” said Botello.
Florida voters approved adding the class size amendment to the state’s constitution back in 2002. In 2010, Florida state Senator Don Gaetz and state Representative Will Weatherford attempted to change the language of the amendment from maximum’ class sizes to school-wide ‘average’ class sizes.
However that change was defeated by Florida voters in the 2010 election.
In the original language of the amendment, voters said that the class size maximums should only apply to “core classes”, and not extracurriculars such as band. Following the 2010 defeat, lawmakers in Tallahassee used that wriggle room in the text of the amendment and passed a new law that reduced the number of classes defined as “core”, redefining classes such a marine science, pre-calculus, American literature and more as extracurricular.
Botello said OCEA members were appreciative of Malissa Morgan for opposing the motion.
“In the end, overcrowded classrooms steal from the parents and the students,” said Botello. “If the district claims to advocate for student success, how can they achieve this when they are constantly taxing the teachers in the process? It sends a very mixed message.”
“We know that students were going to be brought back into the classrooms,” continued Botello,” but it seems the district would rather overload the classrooms than fork over money for new allocations. I can’t imagine their job is easy, but we are reaching a point where we are feeling like the district doesn’t really care for their teachers.”