Two weeks ago the parents at Parkway Elementary were informed that the state of Maryland will no longer be providing our children with the bare minimum teaching staff. The official explanation blames a perfect storm of new budget reallocations conflicting with older staffing formulas. Our small school, already spread thin now with 12 teachers, will be rendered deficient when only nine teachers remain employed next year. This means that half of our six grade levels (K-5) will be left with only one teacher. These individuals are projected to be swamped by class sizes grossly over the accepted average with 34-37 students per room. Their counterparts at larger schools around the state will be asked to manage something closer to 21 pupils each. So far, the only thing more ludicrous has been their proposed alternative to even the class sizes by putting children of different ages together and imposing on what is left of our teaching staff, to instruct multiple curriculums simultaneously.
As the group of concerned parents grew larger, our first course of action was to contact the FCPS administration to make them aware of this anomaly and plead for a swift resolution. We were surprised to learn they already knew about the situation. It seems that not only does the chain of responsible administrators know about this nonsensical oversight, but they are more than willing to look the other way, assuring us in polite unison that the remaining staff will “make it work.”
None of us are willing to accept that answer. We aren’t asking for special accommodation. We are, however, demanding the minimum. The minimum because 37 desks in one room isn’t safe, much less conducive to learning. The minimum because we once boasted the enrichment of these children and now we risk their education entirely. Our teachers deserve better. Our children need more. When the budget was properly “allocated” 12 teachers was the accepted minimum. We plan to advocate for Parkway until its leadership realizes a staffing minimum can’t be variable just because the budget might be.
We write today because we aren’t interested in any more canned response emails. We don’t need placation in any measure. We need results. The community needs to be made aware of the erosion threatening the core of our education system. We cannot reconcile this plan to establish our youngest minds in an environment of neglect. Someone who values re-election needs to stand up and make this right.
Going forward, we invite the community to join us in the movement to right this wrong. We plan to attend the Board of Education meetings en masse until action is taken. We also welcome any and all allies to join us May 30 at 4 p.m. in Baker Park for our March for the Minimum. We will gather with the students of Parkway to collect letters for members of the BoE asking, in their own words, for the minimum number of adults needed to staff their building safely. Please join us to celebrate our school and fight for its future success.
Parents of Parkway Elementary