New Jersey school so overcrowded that students have to stand in class

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020
New Jersey school so overcrowded that students have to stand in class
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CeFaan Kim reports on the overcrowded elementary school in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

PALISADES PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- An elementary school in New Jersey is so overcrowded that some students have to stand in class.

It's not every day and not in every class, but the situation at Lindbergh Elementary School has forced kids to race to those classes where students outnumber seats.

Parents are frustrated and the school superintendent admits it's a problem.

"We all come in, all running because there's like 40 of us and we all want to get a seat," 6th-grader Valerie Ramirez said.

Ramirez isn't describing track and field -- she's describing the mad dash for seats for her weekly computer class.

"Sometimes some of us steal each other's seats and there's like conflicts, and then some kids are standing, some kids are standing by the radiator," she said.

Ramirez says a student has to use that radiator as a desk. Four others are left standing with no desk at all, she said.

Parents say overcrowding is a school-wide issue that has been a problem for years.

Camila Reynoso, a 6th-grader, says the seat shortage also happens about once a week for exams.

"When we take math tests, some people usually don't finish," Reynoso said. "So some people do come and take people's spots and then you have to wait to 2:45 for dismissal."

The underlying issue, according to parents, is that families from outside the district are flooding the school.

And they blame the district for what they call a loose application process that they say allows kids from the outside into the school.

"We pay taxes here, we live here, we want everybody to be treated equal," parent Neris Papoteis said.

But the school superintendent says it has a residency officer enforcing these complaints.

When brought to their attention, the officer will verify if a family suspected of living outside the district does in fact live at the address provided.

"We have flexible seating. In science and computer labs they can stand if they choose to, but every child has a seat. Every student must prove residency," the superintendent said in a statement.

Of course, students say they're not standing by choice.

"They should do something about it, that's not right," parent Awilda Reynoso said.

As far as the overcrowding issue, the superintendent says the Board of Education tried to address the issue by a voter referendum last fall to expand the number of schools. But voters denied it.

The BOE will try a referendum again soon.


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