LETTER: Gregory Heights Elementary School Teacher endorses School Bond

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

To Whom It May Concern:

I began teaching in 2005 in elementary schools in Kent. I took advantage of an opportunity to become an English Language Learning endorsed teacher in 2014 in hopes to better reach the students with this need in my individual classrooms. After learning more about the history of ELL and the unique needs and gifts of this population of students, I became very interested in sharing my knowledge and expertise to not only help the students in my own classroom, but students in classrooms throughout the school. I was empowered to bring equity to schools and make sure that every student was getting their shot at the right we promise all students – a quality education that meets kids where they are and provides them just the right challenges to grow and develop into their best selves. That desire led me to the position I currently hold at Gregory Heights Elementary as the Language Learning Specialist. It was with excitement that I came back to the school district that I grew up in and graduated from to impact the community that I called home for my entire childhood. I was drawn to Highline’s bold goals for student achievement and biliteracy.

My situation currently at Gregory Heights is terrific – great staff, supportive families, amazing students – but the space at Gregory is packed to the gills. There isn’t a single classroom or space that isn’t being used for instruction, including the two portable classrooms on our playground. That meant that last year when Gregory Heights had newly enrolled Language Learners who had moved from other countries (at least one per month – sometimes 3 or 4 in a month) and had no English Language Instruction I had to find the space to instruct them in a small group for some basic language skills. The only space we could find just happened to be a ‘nook’ in the side of the upstairs hallway between an electrical room and the school’s technology server room. Needless to say, this space isn’t ideal. Imagine your first impressions as a new student to the United States being one where you have to practice a new language on stage in the middle of a hallway where classrooms regularly pass by on their way to other locations throughout the building. I know that wouldn’t be my best learning environment for something I felt confident in – and English isn’t where these students felt most confident, I assure you! We’ve managed and made it work (as all teachers seemingly do when faced with challenges such as these), but managing doesn’t seem like enough for any student.

The overcrowding at Gregory this year is at an extreme. We have over 75 more students enrolled her this year than we did last year – making our current enrollment over 700 students in a building I’ve been told was originally designed for around 500. Not a single classroom at Gregory is underenrolled – some classrooms have over 30 students learning in classrooms that can barely hold the desks needed for those students to sit in and complete classwork.

Our schedule has to accommodate 4 lunch periods a day over the course of 2.5 hours due to it’s limited capacity. Classrooms double-up at specialist times – two classes at a time in the Gym for PE (that’s sometimes 60 students in one PE class) and one of the music teachers uses the stage for her classroom (separated by just a collapsible wall from the noisy cafeteria.)

On behalf of our students, schools and communities, the overcrowding is an urgent need that has to be addressed. Please join me and Vote YES on the Highline Schools Bond / Prop 1 by November 8th.

– Alyssa McCaslin
Teacher in Highline Public Schools

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