Crowded classes raise learning concerns


By Emily Han & Olivia Middien

This September, South welcomed a freshman class of over 500 students, the largest in many years. 

With an unexpectedly large number of new students and a shortage of teachers due to budget cuts, challenges continue to arise regarding the accommodation of large class sizes, with freshmen classes among the most affected.

Freshman Abby Shachmut said that having a smaller class helps students get more attention and become closer with their classmates. 

“If the class size ever goes back down, people will realize that smaller class sizes make a difference in certain ways,” she said. “You get a little bit more airtime than when you’re in a larger class. You get to know the people a little bit better.”

Freshman Hailey Yamagata said that larger class sizes can make it both easier and harder for students to socialize.  

“It allows me to meet more people,” she said. “I remember when my sister was younger and had bigger class sizes, the class would divide into smaller groups, which made people interact less because it’s harder to get along with that many people.”

In addition to freshman classes, AP classes offered to upperclassmen are also overcrowded. Junior Jason Chiu said that large class sizes prevented him from enrolling in more challenging courses. 

“I requested to take AP Chem and then AP Stats as a secondary, and I ended up getting neither,” he said. “I have a free block the entire year now. I tried talking to the counselor and I can’t really move up into AP at this point.”

Science Department Head Gerard Gagnon said that not being able to place students in the classes they want to be in is especially challenging.

“It’s hard for me to tell a kid who’s passionate about chemistry as a junior,” he said. “‘No, I’m sorry, you can’t take AP Chemistry this year. There weren’t enough seats.’ That’s a conversation I’ve had with about 15 or 20 kids this year.” 

World Language Department Head Suzanne Murphy-Ferguson said that language teachers are struggling to support the increasing student body. 

“We are speaking with one another about noticing students who are starting to struggle. The teachers are saying that ‘I have so many kids who come during winter. I don’t know how I’m going get to everybody,’” she said.

Murphy-Ferguson said that peer tutoring is one solution that language teachers have been using to help accommodate their students. 

“I’ve sent out a few feelers to students for becoming a TA in a particular class with a whole lot of kids. This way students can see themselves as leaders and be part of the solution and support one another,” she said. 

History teacher Andrew Thompson said that larger class sizes pose challenges for teachers to ensure every student’s needs are met. 

“It can make it trickier to meet with and support each student as much as possible, especially in a class like ninth grade world history where there’s a lot of variety of abilities, interests and different skills,” he said. 

“Some students may already be very interested in and able to do work at a really high level, other students need more support to get there and that can be harder if you’ve got 26, 27, 28 students in the class.”

Thompson said that he has been finding ways to adjust to larger classes by dedicating more time getting to know his students. 

“It’s been more pushing through and spending more time grading, but also spending more time making sure that I know people’s names and trying to understand their work and what their current skills and strengths are,” he said.

Gagnon said that ultimately, teachers’ dedication to their students will help them bypass the challenges of large classes.    

“There is a real cost to the experiences that the kids are getting, and I can tell you that one of the reasons that this has always worked well is that teachers are willing to go above and beyond and invest their time and their energy to help a class that big,” he said. “Teachers will always do the best for their students because that’s how they got into the business.”

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