(The Center Square) – Teachers and parents are speaking out against a recent decision by Seattle Public Schools to adjust a staffing imbalance in elementary schools by cutting some teachers and moving students to different classrooms.

Seattle Public Schools is at risk of losing out on $3.6 million in state funding due to a staffing imbalance at several elementary schools, as previously reported by The Center Square.

All school districts are required by law to maintain a 17:1 staffing ratio for kindergarten through third-grade general education classrooms to be eligible to receive money from the state.

For the current school year, the school district cites a $131 million budget deficit for its inability to minimize classroom staffing assignment changes.

Seattle Public Schools’ Orca K-8 is one of the district’s smaller schools. The school is subject to cuts as a result of the classroom reshuffling. Orca K-8 had a total of 192 students from kindergarten through third grade in the last school year, with kindergarten having the highest number of enrolled students at 52, according to data from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Teachers and parents of Orca K-8 students voiced their frustration with the decision. One parent asked the school board to give teachers the basic support they need. “Please don’t break our hearts,” the parent said.

Tyler Dupuis, a kindergarten teacher at Orca K-8, said that the school already saw massive cuts last year, including a third of its middle school staff.

“We started this year stretched as thin as we could possibly imagine and now we’re being told that because of an under enrollment of about two students per classroom, we’re going to need to lose yet another adult from our entire school,” Dupuis said in the Oct. 11 school board meeting.

Other elementary teachers spoke against the district’s decision, including Kindergarten Teacher Shannon Crowley, who said Seattle Public Schools must undergo a forensic audit before considering consolidating any schools.

“As a taxpayer … I will vote ‘no’ on every single levy that appears on my ballot if you so much as sneeze in the direction of a small school with the idea of consolidating or closing it until this district goes through a forensic audit,” Crowley said.

Prior to the public comment portion of Wednesday’s school board meeting, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones said the district is apologetic for the inconveniences the decision is causing.

“We are collectively challenged in making sure we are following mandates and rules so that we can get the resources that we need in order to keep our schools solvent,” Jones said. “These adjustments are made to ensure that our students benefit from smaller class sizes, while also ensuring Seattle Public Schools, again, remains fiscally responsible.”

The Center Square requested more information regarding the classroom splitting prior to a previous report, but has yet to receive a response from Seattle Public Schools.