Class-Size Rule Has Schools Scrambling for Space

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Times-Union staff writer

Sandalwood High School is "bursting at the seams," and the prospects for next year don't look too much brighter.

"We've been very creative in our use of space," said Lisa Kunze, the school's vice principal. "We have eight relocatable classrooms and couldn't get any more, so we have made classrooms from storage rooms, you name it. We've improvised."

Many schools are struggling to hit the class sizes mandated by a state constitutional amendment passed in 2002. But Kunze said schools such as Sandalwood have more immediate concerns, and the prospects for next year don't look much better.

She said she learned at a recent Student Advisory Council meeting the city is trying to buy more land for a school at either Florida 9A and Philips Avenue or at Florida 9A and Butler Boulevard. But even in a best-case scenario, she said, the school couldn't be ready for four years. On top of that, she said the advisory council was told that, because of high growth in the area, Sandalwood could get an additional 300 students each year.

Terri Stahlman, regional super- intendent for most Arlington schools, said there is still more room for relocatable classrooms at Sandalwood, and that may be a temporary solution. They also could look at other options such as re-drawing school attendance boundary lines but stressed that "would come way down the line after other solutions are sought."

She said the class size amendment is weighing heavily on educators' minds.

"It's having a huge impact in terms of facility issues," she said. "We're often having a hard time just finding the room we need."

She said Arlington schools are trying to meet the amendment's student-teacher ratio by hiring more teachers, putting more than one teacher in classrooms and using relocatable classrooms.

Paige French, principal of Terry Parker High School, said schools are also using every space available in the facility.

"We've had to get rid of a foreign language lab we had and turn that space into a classroom," she said. …