- Milton High School in Milton, Wisconsin, now has nearly 1,150 students enrolled — in a building designed to accommodate 900, reports News 3 Madison.
- The overcrowding problem is seen in all schools in the district (which covers nine municipalities), but is particularly acute in the high school. Some students there have been attending class in storage closets.
- Two referendums, though, to address the facilities problem have failed, with voters concerned about taxes. A third could be on the calendar as soon as April, 2019. In the meantime, district leaders held a listening meeting to get ideas directly from parents.
Budget cuts, an increase in immigrant populations, and some cities getting a sudden influx of families with young children moving in from other states, is leading to school overcrowding in Wisconsin, but also in Tennessee, Florida, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The situation can surely strain relationships between schools and parents, as smaller class sizes are one of the few educational issues parents of all backgrounds seem to care about.
Most decisions on how to deal with overcrowding are decided at the local level. Principals and teachers must address the fallout of over-enrollment often unexpectedly on the first day of class. School officials, often caught in the push and pull of local politics, must find ways to pack additional students in the buildings that exist. Thus, spaces that were never designed to be learning environments, including storage areas, cafeterias, and offices, are not uncommonly pressed into service.
While long-term solutions, such as building new schools and redefining district boundaries, are being worked out, creative interim measures to alleviate overcrowded classrooms are being implemented, included rejiggered class time scheduling (part of which may be more lunch periods in a day and staggered start and end times to the school day), varying start and end dates to the school year and breaks, and implementing online learning.
The most popular stop gap measure, though, seems to be bringing in portable buildings. These are typically well-equipped for large groups of students — and have the side benefit of being air-conditioned. (The vast majority of public school buildings in the northern parts of the country are not, which is starting to become a problem and has led to schools having to close because of high temperatures.)
Teachers can sometimes be the overlooked part of the overcrowding picture, but they shouldn't be. While permanent solutions to overcrowding are sought, administrators can encourage well being in teachers serving larger classes with an array of professional development and other supports.