Three of the five elementary school campuses in the Denison Independent School District are operating at or near capacity, officials said.
During the current school year, Denison ISD has already had to submit two class size waivers to the Texas Education Administration in order to keep from splitting classrooms mid-year. Superintendent Henry Scott said it’s not uncommon for districts to do so, but it is an issue the district will have to address in the near future.
“We will have to meet with the district’s architect in the coming months to develop a strategy,” Scott said. “We have three campuses that are near capacity right now.”
He wasn’t certain what action the district would take to address the issue. One solution the superintendent suggested was to present a bond to voters to expand the existing elementary facilities to address the need. Scott said the hope would be to do so in a manner that doesn’t raise taxes as those bonds are easier to pass.
Mayes Elementary School has been the site of those two class size waivers. The district had to apply for the first waiver earlier this year to allow the campus to keep its three first grade classrooms at 23 students each. TEA mandates the student-to-teacher ratio be below 22 students for every teacher. The Denison ISD board of trustees then approved a similar waiver for the campus’ fourth grade classes at its most recent meeting.
Scott said the campus has been pretty full since the beginning of the school year. He said the district added 30 new students in November alone.
Denison ISD Public Information Coordinator Brian Eaves said the district has added 100 new students per year for the last four years. He said much of the growth has been at the elementary level, prompting the need to have discussions on what to do moving forward.
“We’ve been adding new students throughout the school year,” Eaves said. “We’ve seen an increase in students almost every month. We’ve seen growth in places we didn’t expect. Sometimes you can’t see it coming and you can’t predict how it will hit you.”
Scott said another possible solution to alleviate the immediate pressure on school staff would be to split the classes into smaller sizes. Doing so would require adding staff and finding a classroom to house them. He said parents often don’t like that approach, and neither do students who have to switch from a teacher they have been working with all school year to someone new.
“It’s a whole lot easier to hire teachers earlier in the school year than it is mid-year,” Scott said. “By this point in the school year, most people who want jobs have them.”
He said it would be easier, in the short term, to apply for the waiver and add teacher aids to provide some relief for the teachers. He said by the end of the school year, the board of trustees will likely have to start considering all of their options as the growth continues to hit the city.
“The growth has been steady,” Scott said. “We are fairly comfortable at the secondary campuses, but we are getting tight at the elementary level.”