West class sizes questioned

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By Don Pace

A Union Elementary parent wants to know why classes at Union are so much bigger than those at Don Cecilio Elementary.

The answer: Union is more popular with parents.

Still, an official said the district plans to better balance out student numbers by classroom next school year.

During a question-and-answer session at Union Elementary last week, as part of special meeting of the West Las Vegas school board, parent Betsy Sanchez wanted to know why some classes at Don Cecilio Martinez Elementary have as few as eight students.

“As you look at the budget, you’ve got three teachers at Don Cecilio who have a (combined) total of 33 students. Two classes each have eight students. That’s a waste of money, why can’t those two classes be combined? You could save a teacher’s salary there, and that money could be sent to Union because teachers here are running out of pencils, paper and dry erase markers,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said Union teachers are buying supplies with money out of their own pocket. She said the parent-teacher organization tries to help, but can only do so much.

“My question is, why do those teachers only have eight students? There’s another teacher with 13, and a couple of others with 15 and 16 students, that’s ridiculous. Our classrooms are maxed out, but we’ve got some awesome teachers that work with each other, and with the parents,” Sanchez said.

Superintendent Jim Abreu said he deals with personnel issues, which includes where to place teachers.

“But the number of kids at a school site, that’s the parent’s choice. When we have a school site where parents are taking more students, like what’s happening at Union, we have a tough time. We even have to turn some away. We do encourage parents to take their children to a school where there are fewer students, we’ve dealt with that all year long,” Abreu said.

Abreu said some parents have moved their children to schools with a smaller student population, but not enough.

“If they don’t want their children to go to another school, we can’t force them. So when you see these inequalities in numbers of students in the classroom, that’s the reason,” Abreu said.

Abreu said when the district starts laying off teachers to save money, it has to deal with the teachers union.

“The union is a big deal here, so I can’t just cut a teacher because I want to combine classes. That’s a whole different ball game. And I’m not going to cut somebody’s job if I don’t have to. What it comes down to is the number of parents taking their children to a particular school site,” Abreu said.

Abreu said next school year, his administration will try to have the number of students in each class more evenly balanced.