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Classes not settled at Sonora

Grade levels are being combined and some students remain without a homeroom, parents say.

September 21, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Some parents at Sonora Elementary School are complaining that its administration has taken too long to place their children in their appropriate home room classes and that there's been a "craziness" to the first few weeks of the new school year at the K-6 campus.

Even the annual Back to School Night, in which parents meet with the teachers, and which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed till the first week of October.

Donna Robb, a parent of a fourth-grader at Sonora, said that at the beginning of the school year, it seemed like there was a lot of confusion, with parents "running into and out of the principal's office" and not enough teachers for too many students.

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She said her daughter's class had as many as 38 children in it at one point before the size was finally altered.

"It was kind of a surprise for everybody," Robb said.

The Costa Mesa school's principal, Christine Anderson, said the delays were caused by the school being caught slightly off guard with 30 to 55 extra students showing up at the start of the academic year on Sept. 7. As a result, Sonora Elementary had to add one combination class that teaches students from different grades.

"This year isn't any different than any other school year," said Anderson, who has nine years at Sonora's helm. "Our numbers always change, and we can only predict so much. We wanted to make sure that the 'combination classes' were right for the children. It's a matter of looking at all the kids and making sure what's best for the kids and hoping that parents will trust us."

In all, there are now a kindergarten-first grade class, a second-third grade class, a fourth-fifth grade class and a fifth-sixth grade class.

It's a scenario that's been playing out across the Newport-Mesa Unified School District as the class size at the elementary schools has increased due to the layoffs of more than 100 teachers during the summer, most of them at the elementary schools.

But more than 50 of those teachers have been brought back, and at Sonora Elementary, a teacher shortage wasn't the problem as much as it was trying to find the right class for the right child, Anderson said, adding that she actually has a total of 20 teachers – one more teacher than last year.

Sonora's student enrollment stands at 650, she said.

Robb believes that the increase in students at Sonora could be the result of the district "clamping down" on students transferring between schools in the district. Robb said that all sorts of criteria, like property deeds to IDs to utility bills, are being requested to prove residency.

In the past, she said, parents could transfer their children with greater ease, but now it's getting more difficult.

Officials at the district's main office could not be reached for comment Tuesday on what caused the rise in student enrollment at Sonora Elementary.

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