Chelsea teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents expressed concerns about class sizes in the city’s schools during last week’s School Committee meeting.
A need for more paraprofessional help, as well as large classes in English Language Learner (ELL) classrooms were among the issues that were hit upon several times by the more than a dozen people who chimed in during the public speaking portion of the meeting. In addition, a number of parents emailed the committee stating they want to see the size of an ELL class at the Brown School decreased from its current size of 26 students.
Stephen Edelstein, a math teacher at the Clark Avenue Middle School said he loves teaching at the school and his team, but said the class size situation has become untenable.
“I’m currently teaching 173 students between six separate classrooms,” he said. “Three classes are co-taught, and three classes I’m alone and I don’t have any paraprofessionals or support in these classes.”
The workload has left him drained and exhausted, Edelstein said.
“The homework and any student work is coming at me in waves. Some of our students have missed a year or more of socializing in school due to Covid, and behaviors have become a problem; the juggling of instruction, grading, counseling, and navigating each day puts a heavy burden on me and on all the teachers on my team.”
A number of other teachers also spoke out and advocated for smaller class sizes and caseloads across all the schools in the district.
During a discussion on federal Covid relief funding later in the meeting, School Committee member Rosemarie Carlisle asked about the class sizes, and if all the paraprofessionals and staff that were added thanks to the previous round of Covid relief funding had been hired.
District Human Resources Director Christine Lee said most of those positions have been filled.
“With the class sizes you are hearing about today, we would have to look at these numbers to further identify what the core issues are,” Lee said, but added that the district has hired more paraprofessionals and classroom aides over the past year to help decrease the student to teacher ratio.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Adam Deleidi said that as the district looks at class sizes and paraprofessional support, it looks at grade levels and programmatic support.
“Our youngest children need support, so our kindergarten classes all have paraprofessionals in them, and our first grade classes all have paraprofessionals in them,” said Deleidi.
On the programmatic side, Deleidi said all special education inclusion classes also have a paraprofessional, and classrooms for students with moderate to severe special needs typically max out with 12 students with two paraprofessionals and a teacher.
“That is pretty much where we stand,” said Deleidi. “We also added numerous additional paraprofessionals across the district in foundational ELL classrooms at all levels, and the ones where we don’t have them it’s because we haven’t hired them yet, and that’s only a few.”
As for class sizes, Deleidi said they do span anywhere from 12 to 30 students, but added that there are only a handful of classrooms across the district pushing 30 students.
“There might be two or three above that at 31 or 32, but the vast majority are under 30 and I’d says 75 to 80 percent are under 25,” he said.