WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 27, 2010, 09:45 AM

Classrooms fill up while other rooms sit empty

Moorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Students are packed into some Moorhead classrooms and teachers say the crunch could get in the way of learning. We've heard a similar story out of the growing West Fargo school district, but in this case, space is not the issue and voters will soon decide what to do about it.

Its third period, U.S. History, and the students are coming and coming and coming. 36 in all, seated wall to wall, sometimes elbow to elbow. It is a little too close for Alex Rassmussen.

Alex: “Feels crowded, kind of hard to work.”

For Drake Benedict, it’s not a big deal.

Drake: “Just push them out of the way.”

Both students are used to it. This is an average class size at the high school. When 30-year veteran teacher Kent Wolsford started here in '95, he usually had about 25 kids per class. He says a change in size has changed learning.

Kent: “Full packed room of teenagers trying to become adults. It can be very difficult.”

He says it's harder to get to know the kids, nearly impossible to cater to different learning speeds, and harder to get students to participate, considering so many eyes watching.

Kent: “You want people sharing interests and view and thoughts and for that kind of a class, it holds it back because you don't get that kind of interaction.”

The kicker is, space isn't even the issue. This is the classroom next door is empty. The problem is they district can't afford any more teachers to spread students out. Within the last two years, Moorhead high school laid off 15 teachers because of budget cuts.

Gene Boyle/Principal: “Painful to see kids falling through the cracks, our teachers overworked.”

They're faced with more papers to grade, calls from parents, and student questions.

Kent: “By no means am I complaining, but there's a limited amount of time I can do those items before it starts taking away from the students.”

If the district doesn't pass a new operating levy, more teachers could get cut and at this point, the school isn't left with much wiggle room. That operating Levy would provide an additional 850 dollars per pupil and would cost a homeowner with a 150-thousand dollar house about 270-dollars a year. The issue is on the November 2nd ballot.