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Between the coronavirus pandemic, staffing shortages, and legislative initiatives, it has been a particularly difficult time for some teachers. We asked some about their biggest challenges, and we're sharing what they had to say, in their own words.

Tampa Bay teachers say bulging class sizes cause strain

Classroom full of younger children. A female blonde teacher stands up in the back of the room.
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One educator says some teachers at her Hillsborough County School have as many as 40 students at a time.

Throughout the month of May, WUSF will feature the voices of local teachers, as they describe the challenges they face, in their own words.

Class size has long been a source of contention, particularly in Florida, where voters approved restricting the number of students in a classroom in 2002.

But some Tampa Bay educators say swelling class sizes and increasing workload are causing strain. WUSF recently asked teachers what their current challenges are, and why some are leaving the profession.

Read more from WUSF's Teacher Voicesseries

Ashlee Highfill teaches middle school social studies at a Tampa magnet school.

She says that as class sizes increase, the workload continues to bulge as well.

"When your total number of students is pushing 150 or more mark, it's a lot when you take into account all of the things that go into each individual student, and then each individual class, and each assignment and grading things and contacting parents, and things like that," she said.

Aline Loges teaches at a high school in Hillsborough County. She hoped hybrid schooling during the pandemic would place a greater focus on the problem.

"I thought when we had COVID, that maybe this would be a wake up call as to how many kids are in a classroom, but it wasn't. Social distancing was almost impossible. And there was nothing done about that, because we can't, we don't have enough teachers to have smaller class sizes."

While her largest class has 30 kids, she says some teachers have 40.

"That's a lot of kids, and having to grade all those papers, like if you have essays to grade, for example, it takes a really long time. So the time you spend grading is time you're taking away from planning, which is seat time that the kids have. So it really would benefit the whole profession, if we had smaller class sizes."

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.
I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.
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