Overcrowding exacerbates scheduling issues

Elie Salem

The scheduling scene at the beginning of the school year is hectic; dozens of students line up in front of Administrative Assistant Diana Morataya’s desk to change classes. In the past few years, the scheduling mayhem has intensified as the student population has grown. By the first month of school, 923 requests had been made to change schedules: 235 by seniors, 306 by juniors, 242 by sophomores, and 140 by freshmen.

Tenth grade counselor Patrice Maites explained that the large amount of scheduling changes is due partly to an increase in the amount of students. “Certainly our student body is larger than it was last year,” she said. “We have 1,900 students in the building. So that means we have more students to schedule with less [class] sections.”

Over the summer, a computer system based processes student course requests, and assigns students to their top choices while ensuring that no class remains over capacity. As a result, many students are initially placed into classes they did not request, because the classes they had applied for, typically competitive AP courses, were over capacity. During the first few weeks of school, counselors must manually add students to these overbooked classes.

As the student population increases, more students apply to the same classes every year, and the number of students initially rejected and forced to make scheduling changes increases. “As we keep growing, that’s going to keep happening,” said Pathways Coordinator Angelo Hernandez.

Eleventh-grade counselor Aleta Lane believes that haphazard student class choices also exacerbate scheduling issues. “Students do change their schedules a lot,” she said. “I met with [juniors] in the springtime, and before the school year was out people were already like, ‘I want to change this.’”

Students were frustrated by scheduling errors at the beginning of the year. “I was put in two periods of the exact same class (ceramics) who we still don’t have a teacher for,” said junior Caterina Sella. Sophomore Leila Warner had a similar issue. “They forgot to put me in [a] language and I had two of the same class[es] in a row, which meant my entire schedule had to be moved around,” she said. “It took three weeks,” Warner added.

The main issue is that the teacher population has not been increasing with the student population. As The Beacon reported last month, the average Wilson class size is 24 students, and 56 classes have more than 33 students. DCPS is supposed to provide funding for a teacher for every 30 students that Wilson is over capacity, though that data is not finalized until later in the advisory when it is clear which students are regularly attending school. Even then, the hiring process might take weeks or months to find an adequate educator.

Despite the continual increase in scheduling concerns from an expanding student body, this year’s counseling office was far better prepared to handle student concerns than previous years. “[We had] one counselor per grade level, now we have two counselors per grade level,” said Lane. She noted that staggering changes by grade over a two week period made changing student schedules more manageable.