RPS teachers march for smaller class sizes

RPS teachers march for smaller class sizes.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:17 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – In a room full of people, it can be hard to focus. It can also prove difficult to learn. Public school teachers in Rochester said they have been overwhelmed by large class sizes for years. Tuesday, they made sure their voices were heard marching around the Rochester Public School’s Edison Building.

RPS teachers explained they have been negotiating smaller class sizes since July and haven’t seen the results they’ve been asking for.

“Our union is determined that class sizes get the attention it deserves,” RPS teacher Phil Olson said.

Rochester Education Association president Vince Wagner said smaller class sizes, particularly in primary grades, set students up for success for the rest of their education.

“The teacher is going to be able to identify deficiencies before the student gets too far behind,” Wagner stated.

Folwell Elementary kindergarten teacher Meg Repede explained smaller class sizes makes a huge difference when it comes to addressing individual needs of students.

“I see students that I had in kindergarten who need their teacher’s attention in second grade, and it is just so challenging for the teachers. They want to meet the needs of all of their students but 32 seven- and eight-year-olds is a lot,” Repede said.

According to Wagner, some teachers are experiencing bad behavior as a result of large class sizes. However, for smaller class sizes to happen, it’s going to take funding. In previous negotiations, RPS said in order to accommodate smaller class sizes it will need an additional 37 classrooms throughout the district. RPS said that was not in the budget or it would need to cut other support staff.

Now, with the failed technology referendum, the district says it will need to cut another $10 million dollars from its budget and teachers are disappointed.

“We would hope with a world class medical center that we would also have community members who value education and would support a referendum,” Repede said.

Repede said she hopes the community gets another chance to vote on another similar opportunity.

RPS and REA have agreed on non-monetary issues like maternity and health insurance.

RPS said it does not have a comment on Tuesday’s march for smaller class sizes. The next negotiations meeting is November 20 at the Edison Building.