Wesley Chapel, Florida -- At Sand Pine Elementary, Mrs. Lambert's fifth grade reading lesson has nothing to do with the math that administrators have been working on for most of this year.
The 1st and 2nd grade classes are at the maximum allowed size by the state, which is 18 students for one teacher. With new students coming and going and a Friday deadline to be in compliance, keeping the focus on education can be difficult.
"I think the most challenging part and that is trying to do what's best for the kids, in light of the mandate," says Sand Pine Principal Todd Cluff.
SOT: It's difficult one where no one is happy.
In 2012, the Pasco County School District added 110 teachers to help offset the shortfall that led to the district being fined $5 million last year, with the understanding that if the district was in compliance this year, then that fine would be reduced to $1 million.
"Not making the class size is just not an option," says Assistant Superintendent David Scanga. "We are going to comply, so we don't want to know what the state would come up with in terms of an additional penalty."
All across Pasco County, dealing with this class size issue has been a bit of a juggling act; at Sand Pine Elementary for example, they've had to get creative.
"One of my fifth grade teachers came to me and said, 'What about a co-teach class? What if I worked as a lead teacher, and you put all the extra [students] with me, but assigned another teacher to work with me,'" says Principal Cluff.
Because Sand Pine had an undersized kindergarten, that made another teacher available to combine the oversized fifth grade into one class of 36 students, which is in compliance as long as there are two certified teachers.
As of right now, the Pasco County District is not in full compliance, but the district says they are close. And with the deadline getting closer, teachers and students getting back to learning full time is the most important issue of the day.