Wilson County urges state to limit class size caps

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Wilson County commissioners have joined the county’s school board in urging the N.C. General Assembly to slow implementation of planned K-3 class size reductions through a multi-year phase to allow time for the legislature and school districts to address challenges. 

The state-mandated requirement sets class-size averages in grades K-3 equal to state classroom teacher funding ratios, which means mandated class size caps in grades K-3, according to the resolution commissioners passed unanimously earlier this week 

“Local school districts have traditionally been afforded flexibility to allow class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to exceed the classroom teacher funding ratios within set limits,” according to the resolution. 

Commissioners said the short time frame of this “new mandate” means that Wilson County Schools will have “very hard time finding enough licensed and qualified teachers” by the next year, “with the potential of more classroom vacancies led by long-term substitute teachers.” 

The resolution states that the immediate reduction in individual class size maximums in grades K-3 would in return increase the number of physical classrooms required at those grade levels, adding to an already “staggering list of capital needs in the district.” The resolution also states that Wilson County Schools would anticipate needing two modular units at $85,000 a piece and/or renovations for additional classrooms. 

Wilson County Schools “may have to convert art and music rooms into traditional classrooms and have those teachers travel from room to room with a cart to deliver program enhancement classes in traditional classrooms, which doesn’t work well with unique aspects of art and music education,” the resolution states.

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper urged the General Assembly to address the issue by providing school districts more money for additional teachers and classrooms. Lawmakers delayed the mandates for kindergarten through third grade last year.

Republican legislative leaders say they’ve added funds in recent years to lower student-teacher ratios. They’ve also talked about creating a new funding earmark for teachers of so-called “special” subjects but told districts to provide more data on how they spend education funds, according to the Associated Press. 

In an informational class size guidelines presentation in December, Wilson County Schools Assistant Superintendent Eric Davis said the 2018-19 requirements would mandate the maximum class size for kindergarten at 21 children, first-grade classes at 19 children and second and third grade at 20 students.