Forty-five students in a fifth-grade class at Davis Elementary School. Five combination classes at Reese Elementary. Fifty students in a junior high drama class at an unidentified school, and 84 in physical education.
Parents pulling their children from public school classes to either enroll them in private school or commence home schooling.
Those were among the issues audience members raised at Tuesday's Lodi Unified School District board meeting when trustees were expected to approve a pair of waivers to allow an average of 35 students in kindergarten through third grade, supervised by one full-time teacher, without state penalties. The item was under the agenda's consent calendar, reserved for routine matters.
But the item was anything but routine and quickly turned toward ongoing contract negotiations.
More than a dozen audience members spoke out against the waiver and drew attention to the district's huge class sizes. School started last week.
"There is no learning that takes place where there are that many in the classroom, when the teacher has to manage that number in one classroom," said Myra Graham, both a district parent and a teacher.
She echoed the sentiments of many, including trustee Jeff Thompson, who said he is a strong advocate against the waiver.
"Right now it is an issue of compliance ... with class sizes that are disgusting. I want to make that clear," he said.
"It's immoral to have 45 students in a classroom. In my mind, that's not productive," added the former high school principal.
Thompson then termed the concerns a "game" and called on the teachers to put pressure on their union leaders to come to an agreement to help reduce class sizes. They have been negotiating for months after members failed to adopt a contract last spring.
"I want us all to own this problem," Thompson said.
With that, local California Teachers Association representative and district parent Vicki Marien refuted Thompson's assertion. She has attended the bargaining sessions, and said the Lodi Education Association is the only group budging.
"Negotiation is two ways," she said. "I'm not so sure you can count on your teachers not going on strike."
Both trustees Calvin Young and Bonnie Cassel requested a vote be delayed a month since the district and teachers' union are scheduled to again meet with the state mediator Monday. The item was already tabled at the June 15 meeting.
Trustee Ken Davis agreed, but encouraged his peers to approve the waiver the next time it is before them.
"We are playing with fire. If we get penalized $5,000 per student, we will lose more teachers and more programs. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe even millions," he said.
But Nanci Johnston pointed out that the numbers are much bigger than even the waiver would allow.
"The class sizes we're hearing in the media are higher than 35," she said.
Upon the recommendation of Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer to not tie it to possible union action, the board voted to table the item. Vice President Joe Nava was the lone dissenter, and President Richard Jones was absent.
Angry parents and grandparents were ready to call publicly on the school board to do something about the new bus stops created this school year as part of a hub system waited two hours to voice their concerns. Some held patient babies and wrangled toddlers.
Cassel requested the item be placed on the agenda after hearing from parents upset with the new system, and fearful that students will be injured.
"How many of you actually looked into this before implementing it?" Lockeford parent Dawn Caravalho said. "The current system is not working, nor is it safe."
She added that five of the area's stops are along Highway 88, where there are no crosswalks.
Grandmother Patty Gonzales said families are not happy. Her grandchildren were left at a hub stop when the bus was at capacity, while another reportedly transported students sitting on the bus floor because there were not enough seats.
"Every day, parents are taking their students to school or picking them up because the buses are leaving or they're too full to accommodate everyone," she said.
The issues are not limited to rural residents.
One North Stockton parent said Morada students are walking over Highway 99 to get to school because bus service has been eliminated.
"I'll be the first one to put out a lawsuit if my child is hurt or kidnapped," Lisa Tender said.
Transportation director Carlos Garcia said he has already moved new bus stops after hearing concerns in the first two weeks of school, including word that a sexual predator was at one of the stops.
Cassel commended how he's dealt with the "avalanche of complaints," but said she is not OK with the situation. She added that both the California Highway Patrol and the Clements Fire Department have been watching out for potential issues.
"I have been out from 6 in the morning to 5 in the evening driving around, making sure we're choosing the best stops," Garcia said.
At times, the standing room-only crowd grew rowdy and even yelled at board members from their seats. Reminiscent of a meeting last year, the fire marshall was once again called to the district office just before 9 p.m. But by then, the audience had thinned out.
Before the meeting, LEA held an ice cream rally, in part to demonstrate against increased class sizes. The teachers' union is also frustrated to have started the school year without a contract.
"We don't agree (that) to request a waiver is the best way to deal with class sizes," union president Jeff Johnston told the board earlier in the meeting.
The school board will hold its next regular meeting Aug. 17.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other action
On Tuesday, the board also:
- Approved a number of new courses of study, but not before a discussion on hiring teachers after more than 245 were laid off in the spring.
- Gave direction on naming a new community day school adjacent to the Henderson campus. It could include community input.
— News-Sentinel staff.