FAQ - Classroom Assignments

Q: Why do we move teachers? 

Toward the end of every school year we make projections for enrollment at every school so that we can assign teachers to cover the projected enrollment. When school starts every September, we know actual enrollment doesn’t always match the projections for a variety of reasons. So, every school year we know we will need to move a few teachers from their planned assignment due to lower-than-projected enrollment to schools with classrooms that experience higher-than-projected enrollment. 

To make sure all classes across the district are at manageable class sizes, we make these moves also to meet the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between our school district and the Tacoma Education Association—the union that represents our teachers. This helps us avoid overcrowding and ensure that all students have equal access to quality teaching and learning.   

We understand that whether your child’s school is gaining or losing a teacher—there is still change and disruption. We instruct our schools to do everything they can to make your student’s transition as smooth as possible.  

Q: Why do these changes happen so quickly? 

To minimize the disruption, our goal each year is to make the reassignments as early in the school year as possible, once our enrollment stabilizes. Our collective bargaining agreement with the TEA requires that classroom changes must be addressed by the third Friday, or the 15th student day of the semester, whichever is later. 

We recognize, based on this school year’s experience, we can do a better job of communicating the potential for adjustments. Some of the schools where we had to reduce the teaching staff this year due to low enrollment have not experienced these changes over the last several years, because of relatively predictable, stable past enrollment. 

Q: Are any teachers losing their jobs? Is this related to a lack of school funding? 

No, teachers aren’t losing their jobs. They are getting new assignments. This change is related to enrollment fluctuations at specific schools; it is not a budget issue.  

Q: What is the teachers collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for elementary class size? 

  •  Kindergarten – 24 students 
  • Grades 1, 2 – 27 students 
  • Grades 3, 4, 5 – 28 students 

For more information read the Tacoma Education Association Unified Collective Bargaining Agreement


Q: How will the District support teachers with class sizes over the maximum listed per the CBA agreement? 

Any elementary class size exceeding the maximum limit will be reviewed by the principal, a union representative and the impacted teacher to determine the appropriate solution.  

Negotiated alternatives can include: 

  • Hiring an additional full or part-time certified staff 
  • Reassigning some students to another class 
  • Hiring a paraeducator assistant 
  • Providing the teacher with additional paid planning time 

Because these teachers shifts occur routeinely every school year, the process is spelled out in "Article XI: Class Size/Staffing" of the district's Collective Bargaining Agreement with our teachers' union, the Tacoma Education Association. 


Q: Specifically, at Browns Point Elementary School, why are we reducing the largest grade (4th) when lower grades are smaller?  Would reducing the lower grades keep class sizes smaller? 

The protocol and criteria for reducing classrooms is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement (described above with more detail in the link) between the district and the Tacoma Education Association. 


Q: What are the implications of a 4/5 split when those 5th graders are preparing for middle school?  Are there studies that specifically address the impact of 5th graders mixed with 4th graders the year before they will be trying to acclimate with 7th and 8th graders?  

Multiage classrooms are a common classroom arrangement in elementary schools. Specific transition activities provided to 5th graders—such as middle school visits and summer Jump Start—will continue. 


Q: How can we avoid first of the year classroom changes next year? 

We understand these changes are not easy for your students or our teachers. Unfortunately, these kinds of changes are not unusual in Tacoma Public Schools—or any public school.  

Every year we staff schools based on the enrollment projection.  

Inevitably, families move over the summer, and when actual enrollment is settled in September as students unexpectedly show up at new schools—or don’t show up where we expected them, we must move teachers from schools with lower than expected enrollment to schools with higher than expected enrollment.  

We apologize for these shifts. We work hard to project accurate fall enrollment to minimize student and staff impacts.  

We appreciate your feedback and we will work with schools to better communicate the spring enrollment deadlines and the potential for changes each fall.  

Q: Why would you move a teacher at a school where enrollment overall has increased? 

In some of our elementary schools, one grade level will have lower than expected enrollment while other grade levels in the same school will have higher than expected enrollment. In some of the schools where we made changes this September, a teacher stayed in the same school but shifted to teach another grade level. 


Q: How are teachers voicing their concerns? 

We know some of our teachers don’t like the changes any more than we like applying the enrollment formula that shows we need to make the changes. Some teachers support the changes. We work closely with our teachers and their union, TEA, to ensure we meet all the terms and conditions required to make the changes as quickly and smoothly as we possibly can. 

Q: What prevents the District from keeping classes as-is and funding additional positions at other schools? 

Tacoma Public Schools is a public agency and we need to be thoughtful stewards of your taxpayer dollars. We do not have funding to hire new teachers to serve schools where enrollment has spiked above projections and keep existing teachers in classrooms where enrollments have dropped. 

We appreciate the attempt by the 2017 Washington State Legislature to address its Constitutional and Supreme Court-mandated requirement"to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." 

Due to multiple funding formula changes, new mandates for how school districts can spend state monies and elimination of flexibility for spending local voter-approved levies, Tacoma will receive less money per student in education funding beginning in 2018. The effects of this lost funding will compound year after year.  

This leaves Tacoma Public Schools underfunded. The Tacoma School Board approved use of $5 million dollars of reserves to maintain current expenses for the 2017-18 school year. Impacts could be more dramatic next year without legislative action.  

Read more in our August statement.


Q: What can parents do if they have additional questions? 

We appreciate hearing from you and commend you for your active role in your child’s education.  

If you have additional questions, we encourage you to contact your school's principal. Additionally, school-level directors who oversee the work of our principals, are happy to assist. You can reach our level directors' office at 253-571-1032.

Your also can email your questions to the Public Information Office at info@tacoma.k12.wa.us