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The biggest freshman class in decades encounters struggles with overcrowding*


BY LINDSAY HARPER, CONTRIBUTOR

The start of the year was stressful for freshmen who experienced crowded classes and repeated scheduling changes, amplifying the challenge of transitioning from middle school to high school.

Wilson currently has 527 freshman students, compared to 482 sophomores, 421 juniors, and 408 seniors. There have been many contributing factors to the overly large freshman class, including large eighth grade graduating classes in feeder schools and Wilson’s growing popularity.  

The consequences of this overpopulation are numerous. For one, there is a dearth of teachers. Newly hired teachers are not allowed to begin work until their criminal background checks come through, so students have been coping with long-term subs. The freshman biology class got their assigned teacher after a month of being taught by reportedly inattentive substitutes.

The level one Chinese class has also been taught by substitute teachers since the beginning of the school year. World Languages Chair Amy Wopat said, however, that the Chinese class has been recommended a teacher, Mrs. Yin Chan, who could be in place any day now, as long as she has the required documents and clears her background check.

Freshmen also, more than any other grade, experienced prolonged scheduling problems. With so many students, incorrect schedules proved difficult to change.

“They didn’t give me the classes I wanted at first and then it took them, like, three weeks for them to actually switch me into the classes I wanted,” freshman Anna Nachbar-Seckel said. Even weeks into the school year, the counselor’s office at STEP or after school is full of freshmen waiting to talk to their counselor, Wanda Flowers, about unresolved scheduling issues.

Overly large class sizes are a problem as well. Teachers don’t have the time to meet all of their students’ needs. “Issues that kids might have is actually, like, asking for help,”  freshman Cristin Pearson explained. “It probably would be easier to ask questions if you were in a smaller class.”

Despite the addition of a freshman academy this year, Nachbar-Seckel said “it’s harder to get attention” from teachers. “They only have office hours, and you can only come to them at certain times and there’s always a ton of people there,” she said.

“I generally like smaller class sizes because it’s just easier to concentrate, there are less people and the teacher is more focused on each individual,” freshman Shayna Brotzman said.   

History teacher Ashley Otallah sees the problem of crowded classes from both students’ and teachers’ points of view. “I think that for students that are already more challenged by the high school curriculum, absolutely, I think it would make it more challenging to succeed [in a large class setting] to your full potential,” said Otallah.

Overly large classes also cause teachers to reevaluate their lesson plans and teaching strategies. “Small group projects may not be as successful, because there are so many students in a group and I can’t help every student,” said Otallah.    

Teachers recommend different strategies to beat the overcrowded classrooms. Instead of relying solely on teacher assistance, students should text fellow classmates if they have trouble with the homework and take advantage of peer tutoring and of resources like the Math Center and the A-Step program.   

“Make sure to review notes and classwork problems when at home, and to complete all homework is important to be prepared for class,” advises math teacher Laura Guggenheimer. “I think that every student should make it to every teacher’s office hours within the first month or so of school. So if they haven’t gone yet, they should go.”

PHOTO BY ERIN DOHERTY, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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