A class of first grade students at Edwards Elementary School in northeast Oklahoma City has been without a regular teacher since January and some parents have been upset that their children are falling behind in their education.
The Oklahoma City Public School District has cited a teacher shortage as the cause of the problem. Now, some of these students have to play catch-up in order to move on to second grade.
"Our kids have been there all year. It's not their fault," explained Vickie Newcomb, whose son is one of those first-graders. "Who's his teacher going to be? Is he going to be sleeping all day? Is he going to actually do work?"
The frustrated mother said she drops off her son at school every morning then immediately thinks about the "what-ifs." Her son has fallen behind in school because he has been bounced around from one class to another, even spending time, she said, with kindergarten classes.
"When he comes home he says all he's done is colored or watched TV or take naps. Because in kindergarten, they make the kids take naps," Newcomb said.
Colleges of education across Oklahoma have graduated fewer and fewer teachers over the past few years and that has forced school districts to scramble to fill vacancies with qualified teachers. OKCPS said they have come up with a solution for the students at Edwards.
"The first grade teachers and a couple of the second grade teachers are going to come in and work six days a week to make sure those kids are caught up, explained Tierney Tinnin with Oklahoma City Public Schools.
She explained this has not been an ideal situation and that the district would much rather fill the position with a permanent replacement but at this time that has not happened. OKCPS has implemented an aggressive effort to recruit education graduates from surrounding states.
"We know that parents and even the kids are probably frustrated but we hope that next Saturday they will see how dedicated the teachers are."
While Newcomb waits to see what happens, she has taken it upon herself to supplement her son's education by teaching him at home.
"We do work for three or four hours every day when he comes in from school and all weekend," she said. "From math to reading to science, you name it."
The Saturday sessions will catch these students up with three hours of math and three hours of reading in an intensified setting working in four small groups.