Class crowding becomes new normal at Maryland school


Jen Siegel

Sophomores Natalie Mozoki, Jordan Nicolette and Joyce Song complete classwork first semester during Kristi Korrow’s period six Gifted and Talented English 10 class. With 35 students, it’s one of the school’s largest English classes.

By Maya Hoke and Will Paranzino

Tightly packed classrooms are spreading.

Roughly two dozen more classes contain 33 or more students this year than last, enrollment data from the administration shows. Of the 452 classes, 86 have 33 or more students. Last year, 61 classes featured 33 or more students. Elective classes such as physical education and art are included in this statistic.

The data shows that while class crowding has decreased in some departments, it has shifted to others. Last year, only five math classes had 33 or more students; this year there are 11 classes, the largest being Victoria Bracken’s period one Gifted and Talented Pre-Calculus class with 36 students.

“Dude, move your stuff,” sophomore Kenton Cuddington said as he tried to walk through an aisle earlier this month.

Classmates echo his frustration.

“I’m in the corner, the very corner, and there is a giant cabinet, and I don’t have any space,” sophomore Anushka Gerald said.

Social studies has been hit hardest, with classes of 33 or more increasing from 12 last year to 29 this year. A prime example? Karen Turek’s period five GT World History class began the year with 37 students, making it the largest academic class in the school. It has since decreased to 36, the same size as Turek’s period four GT World History class.

Teachers here are not alone. According to a New York Times article, public schools across the country employ about 250,000 fewer staff than before the recession.

The Times reports that Maryland is hit hardest, losing 2.4 teachers per hundred students, the largest drop in the nation. To match the staff size from 2008, 20,400 teachers would need to be added. With Superintendent Dallas Dance prioritizing technology expenditures, few expect to see staffing levels increase any time soon.

In the meantime, Bracken makes do. New wing classrooms, she said, were originally intended to be computer labs, so they’re generally smaller than those in the old building.

It’s not just a matter of comfort. Moving in more desks creates tight quarters and makes it tough to walk around for homework checks, Bracken said, so she has largely opted for collecting quickly graded drill quizzes.

Crowding has affected other instructors’ teaching styles too. With 34 students in her first period Spanish I class, Eva Van Horn said she assigns less homework now because she can’t take the time to check it every day. In GT history classes of 36, Turek said she must work harder to see that each student responds to questions. On one project, she added another civilization for study to accommodate a greater number of groups than last year.

Noise can be a problem in larger classes. As students practice speaking Spanish or discuss literature in groups, students in nearby classes report being distracted by the volume. Sophomore Anton Pozharskiy reports that this isn’t the only concern.

“If the teacher asks for silence it will take a long time,” he said. “And during the silent work periods there will always be someone talking.”

Problems extend beyond the classrooms for academic subjects.

Librarian Chris Senft said she needed to buy laptops to accommodate larger class sizes when they come to the library for online research. The library’s stock of 29 desktops falls short. She also had to buy more chairs.

For technology teacher Casey Lowe, larger classes working with power tools increase the pressure to maintain safety procedures.

As for students, Pozharskiy said that in larger classes he worries about being judged by students he doesn’t know if he gives a wrong answer. Sophomore Bryan Kihara disagrees.

“I enjoy being in a class with a lot of people,” he said. “It’s more ideas that come out than with a few people.”