Congested Classes


A student sits in the back of a crowded classroom.

Junior Ella Taylor sits uneager to learn in the back of an International Baccalaureate math studies class. Taylor would much rather be taking a class that she would be challenged in that would push her academic limits. Instead, she takes the class a grade level below the one she took sophomore year, all because of overcrowding issues.

Within the school, there are roughly 2,500 students in grades 9-12, with a student to teacher ratio of 17 to 1 respectively. According to U.S News and World Report, the school ranks #429 in the nation, and #10 in Virginia, elements which are based on school  performance with state-required tests, and how well schools  prepare students for college.

“The overcrowding at Washington-Lee affects me personally because I was not able to enroll in the class I wished to, causing me to go from BC Calculus all the way to Math Studies,” said junior Ella Taylor. “ I have repeated information I’ve learned in the years past causing me to not learn anything new.”

With a total of 148 full time teachers and a 95% graduation rate, the school’s prestigious rank is praised for the many cutting-edge classes offered, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses and those offered by the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

Despite the academic success within the building, the counselors consider fitting the needs for every student is no easy task. This can result with students in undesired classes, or unwanted schedule changes.

“I wanted to move into a certain period, which would then probably move my math class,” said junior Ablaaza Andargachew. “My counselor then told me that math class that I would’ve been in was full, therefore switching my science to a completely different period.”

Administrators are very much aware of the overcrowding within the school. They are currently trying to address this issue head-on with the implementation of trailers, and a new building. There is currently a committee in the process of remaking the former Education Center into part of the school, with IB coordinator Ms. Julie Cantor as the representative.

“The former Education Center (building next door to Washington-Lee) is currently being reconstructed,” said Dr. Kristen Devaney, the co-director of counselor services. “Although, the detail of how this building will be used has not yet been finalized, it is possible that this space will become an additional part of Washington-Lee.”

Another method for keeping the overcrowding of students in classes to a minimum is the school’s unique flex period. The flex period allows juniors and seniors to have a free block period where they do not need to attend a class. It was originally meant for juniors to have time during their school day for certain obligations that needed to be attended to during regular school hours. Now it has significantly reduced the amount of crowding for the available spaces in the morning and afternoon classes.

“The idea of permitting our junior and senior students to flex periods was originally implemented to support students who have other opportunities outside of school (work, internship, etc),” Dr. Devaney said. “In addition, it has resulted in reducing some crowding during the morning and afternoon when students are on flex.”

Although students may not be placed in their desired classes for the school year, it is more likely students will have more trouble being placed in certain elective classes. These tend to have a lot of the majority of students who want to be in the popular classes, and lack students for others.  

“We staff the building to support the courses students want to take,” Dr. Devaney said. “This is the reason that elective courses may not always be offered (not enough students have signed up). Over the years I have seen the popular electives change from one year to the next.”

The school is currently doing everything they can to take away the issue of overcrowding, and allow students to be able to take the classes they want, regardless. In due time overcrowding  within the classes will be a thing of the past if the school goes through with it’s proclaimed additions.

“I wanted to switch my English class at the beginning of the year to a different teacher, but I couldn’t because every period was already full,said junior Ashton Taylor. “ Unless the school adds another building, the upcoming influx of students will continue to make the school extremely crowded.”