Adjustments made to help Ocean Air school accommodate influx of kindergarten students

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

After lotteries, some creative uses of space and small class size increases, Ocean Air School has found ways to accommodate the influx of kindergarten students. But not everyone was able to go to their neighborhood school—at the Wednesday, Aug. 24, meeting two children had still been left out. By Thursday morning another student had dropped out and one more new kindergartner was able to squeak into the school. That left one student behind, who will now attend Sage Canyon.

Ocean Air has 123 kindergartners, decided by a lottery system. Last month 39 children were displaced and the district was able to work those numbers down, step by step, down to two then one.

“It was unacceptable when it was 19, unacceptable with seven, unacceptable with two,” said parent Brian Olesky, who just got the news on the way into Thursday’s meeting that his child would be at Ocean Air on the first day of school five days later. “Your job is not being done if there are two students that can’t get into the school they live 20 feet away from…The problem was there last year, it will be amplified next year. It will be a disaster next year with all these houses being built.”

Parent Harry Dennis, whose child was the last one to make it into Ocean Air, asked the board to do whatever they can to find a long-term solution—his 3-year-old will be ready to start school soon.

District superintendent Jim Peabody apologized for the situation and said the district is continuing to work hard on getting legal opinions regarding the community facilities districts (CFD) and the possibility of adjusting the boundaries so students closer to Sage Canyon would attend Sage, rather than drive to Ocean Air. Within the CFDs, homeowners in the area paid Mello-Roos taxes to fund local infrastructure, such as the schools, so the district has to be sure they are not violating the spirit of the CFDs by altering an attendance boundary.

Olesky said it might be helpful to start planning now for next year’s incoming kindergartners, possibly have something on the Ocean Air website where parents could sign up and the district could gauge how many more students they could be dealing with in 2012-13.

Olesky also said he knows there are students attending Ocean Air who do not live within the boundaries and he would hate to see students not get in because someone who does not live in the Ocean Air boundaries is filling up a spot. Cara Schukoske, director of pupil services, said that there have been some of those cases but they investigate all of those claims when they hear of them, including verifying students actually live at the given address.

One of the ways the district was able to make room was to boost class sizes from 20 to 22 students. Teachers are compensated $20 a day for a classroom with more than 20 students, according to Tim Asfazadour, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Simply adding more students to a classroom is not always an option, he said.

To ensure that all a family’s children can attend their neighborhood school the district will allow 21 or 22 students in a class, but keeping class sizes small is a priority.

“It’s in the best interest of the kids to keep class sizes at those levels,” Asfazadour said.

President Comischell Rodriguez asked staff on Wednesday if any parent has complained about the larger kindergarten classes, at 22:1. Peabody said no parents have raised the issue.