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Serious overcrowding at Tafuna High School prompts action from lawmaker

Serious overcrowding at Tafuna High School, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000, and is the largest high school on island, has led to overwhelmed teachers and counselors, as well as a shortage of school furniture, with many students sitting on the floor — according to Tualauta Rep. Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr.

His comments were made in an e-mail letter this week from the Tualauta representative to Education Department director-designee Dr. Jacinta Galeai, who has agreed to meet soon with Tapumanaia and his colleague Rep. Larry Sanitoa to discuss the urgent issue of overcrowding at THS.

In his letter, Tapumanaia says he is “very concerned with the overcrowded situation” at the high school, saying that he had seen and witnessed the classroom situation during the recent Career Day with students “crammed into a class and teachers being overwhelmed with the situation.”

“Students are sitting on the floor and there’s not enough resources for them to use,” he wrote. “Teachers are trying their best to make do with what they have.”

Galeai was also told that counselors are overwhelmed and not sure where to assign students with teachers sending notes that they are not able to handle the overcrowded situation.

Tapumanaia said that he was at the school on Monday and saw the office packed with students. “Counselors were scrambling to accommodate new students and students returning from holiday break. It’s chaos... and I feel there needs to be something done to help here as we start the new semester,” he said.

“The concern is — this is the year for Tafuna High School’s accreditation visit. With this overcrowded situation at the school, and not having enough teachers, tables and chairs the question is, what are we doing to remedy or help this situation before the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation visit?,” he asked.

He requested a meeting with Galea’i, along with his colleague Rep. Larry Sanitoa and high school principal Lentoy Matagi to discuss options available to address these problems prior to the accreditation visit.

Tapumanaia also asked for DOE to find more tables and chairs for students at this time and suggested possibly re-assigning a few more teachers to the school.

Based upon an inquiry from Galeai, a DOE official informed the director’s office on Wednesday that a new furniture order is on island and will start getting delivered to THS as soon as the ASG Office of Procurement gets the containers released from Customs.

The official says there will be more then enough furniture to address this problem and “we just need to know how many chair/desk combos Tafuna High School needs.”

Tapumanaia also included in his e-mail letter, a long letter from a school counselor to Tafuna High School Principal Lentoy Matagi regarding this serious overcrowding problem at the high school. The counselor states that the initial count for Freshmen was 358 for the current school year but the numbers are  continuing to climb and has reached 362 this month.

“We have been receiving notes... from teachers telling us that their classes are crowded, there's not enough tables and chairs for students, and many still have rejected students, of which we as counselors have been working feverishly to find these students classes to go to,” said the counselor, adding that “we are looking at 40 plus students… in one class.”

“I don't mind having more students, the problem is, where can I place them while I am trying to place those who are already enrolled here?” the counselor asked.

The counselor suggested that maybe other high schools with smaller populations can have some teachers transferred to Tafuna and those other high schools can increase their class sizes a little so that “our teachers can alleviate some of the class sizes at Tafuna.”