Attention, parents and students of the Philadelphia School District: If your classrooms are overcrowded, the district wants to hear from you.
Officials noted the number to call - 215-400-4000, the district's main phone line - during yesterday's School Reform Commission meeting, and one day after the Daily News reported that some students at Abraham Lincoln High School were forced to sit on floors and radiators due to extra-large classes.
Ashley Smith, one of those students, said on Monday she had to sit on the floor during her African-American History and Spanish classes, which each had more than 40 students.
"I don't like it because when you raise your hand, they can't see you and you get ignored," said Ashley, 16.
During yesterday's commission meeting, interim schools chief Tom Brady assured the public that concerns would be addressed.
"We will have operators standing by to assist you" with overcrowding complaints, he said, adding that while he doesn't believe the problem is widespread, action will be taken within two days where problems exists.
Brady said the district so far had received complaints from 10 schools. However, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and two parent groups have reported problems at a few more schools.
"There's a heightened attention that we've placed . . . around this whole issue of class size," said commission Chairwoman Sandra Dungee Glenn. "We don't want it to languish out there as long as it may have in the past.
"We want to be able to immediately respond," she added. "If there's a need for additional teachers - deal with that. If there's a need for redeployment of teachers - address that." School district policy states that kindergarten- through 3rd-grade classes should have no more than 30 students, while grades 4 through 12 should be no larger than 33 students.
In other news, Brady said hopefully by next week all of the glitches will be worked out in providing middle and high school students with free SEPTA passes.
"We're working very hard to get all the changes in now, and to get the right number of passes to students," he said.
Last month, Gov. Rendell announced that some 36,000 students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from school will be able to ride free with the weekly passes.
At Northeast High School, 282 students did not receive passes earlier this week, but the problem was corrected yesterday, Brady said.
Districtwide, the number of students who have not received their passes is small, he said.
"I'm not going to call it minuscule, because one child without a transpass is not minuscule to the parent of that child. But it is a very, very small number given the complexity and the numbers of students who have the eligibility to ride," Brady said.
Those experiencing problems getting their passes, he said, can also call the hot line.
The district is working with Mayor Street's administration to plan a conflict-resolution week next month, Brady said.
"Districtwide, every school, every child will have one of the many programs or lessons that talk about a form of conflict resolution," he said.
Also yesterday, school officials said they are exploring ways to continue educating disruptive students in alternative settings while reducing spending on the schools by up to $8 million.
The officials said some savings could come from renegotiating contracts with the companies that manage the schools, which last year had a combined enrollment of 3,200.
The $8 million is part of $35 million in cuts the school district is making to help retire last year's budget deficit. *