I’ve been flooded with e-mails and calls from parents across the school district who are panicked because their schools are losing teachers, weeks after class has already started:

Jerabek Elementary parents held a press conference last week to protest losing a 4th grade teacher, which forced the school to reassign her students to other classes. An Ocean Beach Elementary mom stood up at the school board meeting last week to argue against her school losing one teacher. “Our students are not a formula,” Shelli Kurth said.

And today I got an e-mail from a parent at Doyle Elementary, where families have created an online petition to try and keep three teachers at their school. It concludes: “Remember, the biggest cost of all is to the little ones who have just started school. Can’t we come up with a better solution for our enrollment issue for their sake?”

So why is this happening? I’m still getting the details about why this seems to be a bigger problem this year than in the past, but here are the basics:

Schools have to be staffed at ratios set by the school district. They plan for their staffing based on predictions of how many children will walk through their doors. But when those numbers fall short of what was expected, schools may have to send a teacher elsewhere. That teacher is still entitled to a job somewhere else in the school district, but the school itself loses them. Thus the protests at Jerabek, the petition at Doyle, and the worried mom at Ocean Beach.

The monkey wrench in this equation, of course, is that San Diego Unified changed those staffing ratios last year to increase class sizes and save money by shrinking its staff. Is that what’s causing the uproar? Or did San Diego Unified just miscalculate when it was planning enrollment? And the bigger question, of course, is whether enrollment was lower than expected at specific schools, or across the whole district?

Check back soon for updates on the issue as I find out more about why this seems to be cropping up more this year, and what this means for staffing and budgets across the school district. And e-mail me if you have any additional thoughts or examples at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

EMILY ALPERT

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