Beaverton schools levy report card: Much better, but short of an 'A+'

BEAVERTON, Ore. - A few months ago some Beaverton students didn't have a place to sit or a desk to write on after budget cuts led to layoffs and ballooning class sizes.

In response, high school students put together a YouTube protest video, which helped generate attention to the problem and helped a funding levy pass.

The passage of that levy meant millions of dollars in funding that brought back a lot of teachers.

The $15 million a year means 150 out of the more 200 teachers laid off have their jobs back. While that means some classrooms are a little smaller - so more students get one on one time with teachers - there's still room for improvement.

"We are off to an outstanding start, and thankful for the passing of the levy, I think made a huge difference to make that happen," said John Engel, principal at Terra Linda Elementary School.

He was almost ecstatic about getting to hire two teachers this year after being faced with the possibility of a fifth-grade class with as many as 45 students. He was pleased to report that an additional teacher kept that class at 30.

"The hope is better teaching will be able to happen because class sizes are in place where teachers can really meet the need of children," he said. "It's a great opportunity to be able to do that by having a class size that's more manageable."

It's good but not perfect. First-grade teacher Nicole Arick still has 33 first-graders to teach.

"I had 32 to start last year, so I was hoping for a lower number, but (with) 33 we're right back up there again," she said.

Arick said reducing the number of students in a classroom by a few can make a big difference - instead of having them crammed into the space, teachers can now have the space to walk around.

The district is waiting for final enrollment numbers before deciding if even more teachers are needed.