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Parents slam overcrowding

Families are urged to increase their donations and volunteer time.

October 07, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Taking advantage of a visit by the superintendent of schools, about 150 La Cañada Unified School District parents crammed into the Palm Crest Elementary School multi-purpose room Wednesday to air their concerns about over-crowded classrooms.

Supt. Jim Stratton was invited by the school's PTA to give a state-of-the-district address at its monthly meeting. At the conclusion of his talk, parents asked where the district is headed with rising class sizes. They also called upon each other to take action and donate their time and money to help save the district.

Craig Mazin, a Palm Crest parent and La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation representative, said so many parents turned out for the meeting because they are upset about the increase in class sizes and are motivated to bring them back down.

The district has been planning its budget on the assumption that class sizes in kindergarten through third grade will remain at 22 or 23 students, which is currently the average class size, except for first grade, where there are 24 to 25 students per classroom, Stratton said.

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"Moving forward, we would like to bring that down to 22 or 23, but speaking to you honestly, I don't see any way we are going to be able to get below 22 or 23 in the near future without some additional revenue," Stratton said.

An average class size of 22 or 23 students is still among the lowest in California, although it's high for La Cañada, Stratton said. Parents, however, said they wanted to see even smaller classes.

"There is a huge change in the dynamic of a class of 19 or 20 as opposed to a class of 24 or 25," said Palm Crest parent Debbie Pitts. "It becomes more about crowd control and less about teaching. From my perspective, it's unfair to our kids."

La Cañada school-board President Jeanne Broberg riled Mazin when she said that 20 years ago, her children were in classes of 30 students and they turned out just fine.

"The last thing we need to hear is that class sizes used to be 30 but everyone was fine. It implies that we should just be happy with what we get, but we're not happy with what we got," said Mazin to a round of applause from parents in attendance.

Although LCUSD has done an "amazing job" getting where it is, it isn't good enough, Mazin said. If an alarm is sounded by the district, he believes the community of La Cañada will come to the rescue.

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