Under the expedited grievance procedure for class size in the union contract, the Department of Education had 10 days from the first day of school — until Sept. 17 — to bring oversize classes reported by the union under contractual limits.
UFT Michael Mulgrew said that he was hopeful that the new administration would move more quickly to deal with the remaining oversize classes than the Bloomberg administration did, which dismissed class size as unimportant.
The most egregious examples of overcrowding this year are at three high schools in Queens that have perennially topped the list — Hillcrest, Forest Hills and Cardozo.
“The students are sitting on desktops and tables,” said Marilyn Beckford, the Hillcrest HS chapter leader. Despite a contract limit of 34 students in high school academic classes, she estimates the average class size in her 3,400-student school is 36, although one social studies class has 45 students — down from 53 a week earlier.
“In a school of this size, it’s a nightmare,” she said. “I have complaints coming in all the time.”
At Forest Hills HS, Chapter Leader Adam Bergstein said the hallways are “unbelievably crowded.” More than 3,900 students are enrolled, which puts the school at 192 percent of capacity, he said.
“It’s pretty intense,” Bergstein said. With so many students in flux, he said, teachers sometimes delay delving into complicated coursework to accommodate new students who enter the class later.
“Many are honors classes, so you have exceptional, bright kids who are delayed from jumping into content,” he said.
At Cardozo HS, Chapter Leader Dino Sferrazza said students are sitting on top of desks in some cases, or in rooms where they brought in more desks, they are packed in tight. “There are all kinds of confusion, because kids are switching in and out of classes, and there are new rosters every day,” he said.
Sferrazza said it has been this way every year since he became the chapter leader 10 years ago. “The city anticipates that we’ll be under-registered, although we have oversize classes and not enough teachers,” he said. “Unfortunately, it becomes the norm and lowers expectations.”
There was no reason, he argued, that the city couldn’t deal with the situation sooner. “We’ll be almost done [with] the marking period before many students will know what class they’ll be in,” he said.