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Mifflin students protest split-grade classroom plan

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Parents and a small group of 2nd- and 3rd-grade students at Mifflin Elementary School staged a walkout in October to protest proposed changes that would have created a split-grade classroom.

The group got a surprise when they met with the District chief academic officer, Cheryl Logan, who agreed to place another teacher in the school and avert the split-grade plan.

The proposed changes at Mifflin were a result of the District’s annual leveling process, in which teachers are assigned to schools based on actual enrollments rather than projections to prevent overcrowding in classrooms.

After the walkout, the students and parents took their concerns to District headquarters, where they held a protest on the steps. Led by parents, students chanted, “We need a teacher, not something cheaper.”

Shana Young, a parent of a 2nd grader and a 3rd grader, said parents received news of the District’s plan nearly three weeks before the protest in a letter from the principal. The proposed changes were to go into effect Oct. 24.

“To do this without an explanation to the parents, without speaking to the parents – it’s ridiculous,” she said of the lack of communication from the District.

Parents said they had emailed and called the District office for two weeks, but received no response. They decided that an organized protest was their next step.

“I know there are budget demands all over, but the squeaky wheel gets the attention,” said Nelson Haakenson, a 3rd-grade parent.

Logan met with the parents and students about their concerns and announced that she had recommended that the school receive an additional teacher, and the assistant superintendent who oversees Mifflin followed her recommendation.

Lee Whack, District spokesman, warned, though, that “this decision to utilize resources in this way does limit our ability to make additional financial adjustments as other issues arise throughout the school year.”

Parents’ reactions were joyous, and many hugs were exchanged.

“It’s important that every child is able to be reached,” Young said.

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