Hundreds of District of Columbia public school students were without, regular classroom teachers yesterday, even though school officials earlier had pledged they would have all the classrooms fully staffed by the first school day this week.
City school personnel officials said they now expect every classroom to have a teacher by the end of the week, when about 235 teachers are rehired -- mostly at lower salaries -- from a pool of 740 instructors who were laid off because of the city's financial crisis.
Yesterday, school officials said they could not give a count as to how many teachers already had been rehired. A spot check of schools by the Washington Teachers Union showed that most city elementary and junior high schools that were understaffed last week began their second week of classes without a sufficient number of regular teachers or with larger than average-sized classes.
William Simons, president of the union, said that the teacher shortage will not be resolved until the end of next week at the earliest, because of what he called the "screwed up" process of rehiring the laid off teachers, mostly at temporary jobs with an average $3,000 salary cut.
Many full-time teachers who received their layoff notices over the summer are reluctant to take the temporary jobs because they fear the part-time positions will jeopardize their chances of eventually being rehired full-time, Simon said.
Another union official, Harold Fisher, said the rehiring effort was being hampered because "most teachers do not want to come back. They feel the (D.C. school) system has not treated them fairly. People don't feel it has been a stable enough system. People are saying why should they take a chance of coming back in again and risk being cut in a year."
Fisher, an assisant to Simons, said that many laid off District of Columbia teachers were looking for employment either in private industry or in neighboring suburban school systems.
Simons and Fisher said they would be meeting this Thursday night with the 740 laid off teachers, to explain the options to those who have been offered temporary jobs and to help the others file appeals to their layoffs.
School Vice-Superintendent Elizabeth Yancey said yesterday that "personnel [office] had simply been flooded" with teachers flocking to accept the recall. She said she did not know the exact numbers, but it is known that as of Sunday night, only 90 teachers of the 135 needed had agreed to return.
School principals, meanwhile, were coping with the teacher shortage either by increasing classroom sizes, or by staffing some classrooms with parents, special reading instructors and nonprofessional educational aides who often do not have any college education.
At Turner Elementary School on Stanton Road SE, principal Geraldine Coleman said parents and educational aides still were teaching five kindergarten and first rade classes. "I'm still in the same predicament I was in last week," she said.
At Watkins Elementary School, Fisher said two reading teachers were holding down fourth and fifth grade classes.One reading teacher, Fisher said, was a Title 1 teacher, meaning a teacher paid by the Department of Education under a federal grant program and, by law, ineligible to teach any class above third grade level. "We have a case where the law is not being adhered to," he said.
At Southeast Washington Patterson Elementary School, Fisher said his spot check showed third, fourth and fifth grade classes jammed with 35 students each. That 35-to-1 student-teacher ratio "will remain just that, or higher, for the rest of the year," Fisher said.