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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

How a new law requiring smaller class sizes could impact Townsend Harris

Changes+in+class+sizes+could+impact+programs+and+student+life+at+THHS.
Changes in class sizes could impact programs and student life at THHS.
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In 2022, governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill mandating that students from grades K-3 have fewer than 20 students per class, students from grades 4-8 have 23 or fewer students per class, and high school students have 25 or fewer students. 

The law gives NYC schools time to phase in the new requirements, but with deadlines inching closer, school leaders are beginning to consider how the mandate will work in their specific buildings. In an interview with The Classic, Principal Brian Condon said that he anticipates that the transition from classes with a maximum of 34 students to classes with a maximum of 25 students will be difficult to accomplish without drastic changes to other aspects of student life. He said that these changes could include cutting electives and Advanced Placement classes or establishing a split schedule, unless more space could be found and faculty members hired to expand the amount of classes currently offered.

“We are already using spaces that are traditionally used for office spaces as classrooms,” he said, indicating that an expansion of faculty and classrooms would be next to impossible without other major changes. “Where else am I going to put classes–in the hallways?” 

Currently, all THHS students have a common schedule that ends at 3:02PM. Mr. Condon said that the new mandate might necessitate running a split schedule with some student schedules ending much later in the afternoon, and even then he would have to use “spaces that I don’t have, with teachers that I don’t have, and money to pay them that I don’t have.”

Latin teacher and Programming Chair Chris Amanna said that in order to coordinate scheduling with these smaller class sizes, “You would either have to reduce the school’s enrollment and keep staffing levels the same, or if the enrollment stays the same, you would need to increase the amount of teachers.”

He said that these adjustments would prompt the need for an increased budget for our school. “If we don’t get money, then we would have to cut classes that are not required for graduation, such as elective classes,” said Mr. Amanna.

New York State Senator John Liu sponsored the bill limiting class sizes and has consistently expressed his support for it since its passage. In many articles on the subject, he’s expressed his view that the city has been given adequate funds to pay for needed adjustments required by the law. He’s also argued that DOE officials need to make “coherent” plans to comply and that they should speak up about needs rather than “continue to hope that their responsibility to reduce class sizes will go away.”

The Classic reached out to Senator Liu about the concerns raised at Townsend Harris. “The most important thing to consider regarding this initiative is how the DOE is directly working with principals to ensure…a smooth transition [to lower class sizes],” he said, calling the need for good communication with each school about funding a  “top priority.”

The Classic reached out to the DOE Press Office for comment, and NYC Schools Press Secretary Nathaniel Styer offered to share questions from The Classic at a press conference held by New York City Schools Chancellor David C. Banks and other top officials in the DOE. 

“We knew this was coming, so we had a plan in place. We feel confident that the plan is working exactly as we laid it out,” said District 22 Superintendent Julia Bove at the press conference, regarding preparing schools for how to handle the requirements of the new law. Both Ms. Bove and Khalek Kirkland, the Superintendent for District 23, expressed confidence that financial support from the DOE will help schools prepare for necessary changes. Mr. Kirkland said that with budgetary support, “there will be a campaign to add more teachers to our respective schools, so no one is in panic mode yet.”

Principal Condon said that even if he received the funding to hire new teachers, there would not be enough space at THHS to fit additional classes. In addition, he said that since core courses required for graduation would need to be prioritized, he would have to increase the number of sections in core courses and hire teachers for them, which he anticipated would lead to cutting electives, including a variety of AP course offerings. 

At the Press Conference, First Deputy Chancellor Daniel Weisberg responded to Mr. Condon’s concerns, saying that the goal is to “not reduce programming at all, which will take close coordination with union partners” to reduce class sizes as much as possible “within the constraints of budget and space.”

Chancellor Banks said that he knows there will be schools that are overcrowded, with no space for an add-on annex or other alternatives, so “those are real challenges that we have to figure out, that we’re grappling with together.”

The Classic interviewed various staff members and students from THHS regarding the impacts this bill could have on THHS.

Looking past the logistics of the situation, multiple teachers at THHS are in support of the ideal effects of class size. English teacher and UFT Chapter Chair Kevin Mcdonaugh said, “Philosophically and idealistically, I am in favor of smaller class sizes. It does mean that I can spend more time giving in-depth and personalized feedback, which is very hard to do with 34 students in each class.” 

Biology teacher Katherine Cooper said that having smaller class sizes would provide her the opportunity to implement new aspects of learning into her class. “I would love to incorporate more public speaking into the classroom. If you have fewer students, having each student talk doesn’t take as much time, so you can build that into class time without sacrificing content.”

Some students expressed that they would feel more comfortable speaking up in class with smaller class sizes. Sophomore Ananna Ali said, “Making class sizes smaller could have benefits for everyone. I think we as students would be more open to asking for help or participating in class, and the teachers could help students one-on-one more often.”

However, students also pointed out the benefits of having larger class sizes. Junior Angel Rahman said, “Having about 30 people in my classes can be nice sometimes because there’s not as much room for awkward silence.” She said it also offers the chance to get to know more people.

Freshman Amelia Zara said, “I disagree with the new legislation because there is less chance of having a class with my friends, which would [create] a more comfortable learning environment. The class sizes we have now are fine.”

One adjustment that Mr. Condon said he would make to this bill is to allow schools to have the option to opt in or out of this mandate. He said, “Why shouldn’t a school like ours, where we have high reading scores, high graduation rates, and we are meeting all our metrics, have the opportunity to opt out?”

Mr. McDonaugh also suggested a similar remedy. “Every school has different needs and I think the school community should be able to prioritize what those needs are,” he said.

Additional reporting by Adam Bhola, Hemala Budhu, and Emily Carson

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About the Contributors
Carina Fucich
Carina Fucich, Editor-in-Chief
Carina Fucich is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. She loves to play sports and solve puzzles in her free time. Her favorite memory of The Classic is going to Albany to talk to legislators.
Sadeea Morshed
Sadeea Morshed, Editor-in-Chief
Sadeea Morshed is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. She loves to dance and watch cheesy romcoms in her free time. When she's not editing Classic articles, you might find her with a book in hand or turning the volume up on an old Bollywood song. She's beyond excited to work on another amazing year of The Classic with everyone!
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