An ever-burgeoning enrollment situation has Big Spring Independent School District trustees scrambling to find instructors, as trustees discovered during their monthly meeting Thursday afternoon.
Fueled by the boom in the oil industry, families are flocking to West Texas, and Big Spring has become home to its share of the transplants.
No one at the school district is bemoaning the fact of more students — state aid is directly tied to daily attendance — but the situation has become problematic for BSISD in at least one regard: There are not enough teachers on staff to satisfy state-mandated class sizes at the elementary level.
“On one hand, this is a good thing; the more students we have, the more state funds we'll receive,” BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar said. “But on the other hand, we have this.”
“This” is a figurative explosion of students at the elementary level, particularly in grades kindergarten through fourth, which are required by state law to have a student-teacher ratio of 22-to-1 or less.
Big Spring, like several other West Texas school districts, was caught by surprise by the sheer number of new students enrolling this year. Latest figures show BSISD has 250 more students than at this time last year, growth school officials concede was unexpected.
That increase has been felt the keenest at the lower grade levels, which have seen the state-required ratios go out the window.
“At kindergarten, the ratio is now at 27-to-1,” Saldivar said.
New teachers, Saldivar said, are nowhere to be found, at least for the time being.
“If we could find teachers, we'd practically beg them to come here,” he told trustees. “But there's not enough teachers out there for us to stay within the class size ratio. We're looking every day, but we just can't find any right now.”
One temporary solution which was approved by trustees Thursday is for BSISD to request a waiver of the class-size requirement from the Texas Education Agency. The waiver is expected to be approved without delay, but Salazar said it is only a stop-gap measure and that, sooner or later, the district is going to have bring class sizes back into line.
Other temporary measures adopted by the district include evening out class sizes in the affected grades — “Now, they're equally as big,” Salazar said — as well as moving teachers from Moss Elementary to Marcy, the elementary campus with the most students.
But the only totally satisfactory solution to the problem is to hire more staff.
“We'll continue looking for teachers,” Salazar said. “But the next time we'll probably be able to hire any is around Christmas. At this time, there's just not anyone we can hire.”
In other business Thursday, trustees approved:
• District and campus improvement plans.
• Legal and local policy updates.
• A $2,500 donation from Big Spring Ford.