Superintendents and school district leaders in Region 2 of North Carolina met today in Onslow County for a round table event around plans and impacts of the current K-3 class size legislation set to take effect 2017-18. Conversation also focused on HB-13 Class Size Requirement Changes. The bill, which was recently passed unanimously by the House and forwarded on to the North Carolina Senate, is designed to keep class sizes smaller but allow school districts some flexibility in how they meet class size requirements.
“Although I was out of state, my representation shared today where Wayne County Public Schools is in its planning for the expected class size reductions next fall,” states Dr. Michael Dunsmore, superintendent. “Looking at our most recent data, without any flexibility for class sizes our district will need to add 79 additional K-3 classrooms in order to be in compliance with the legislation that is currently in effect for next fall.”
Beginning 2017-18 school year, North Carolina § 115C-301.Allocation of teachers; class size requires the state funded class size allotment ratio for kindergarten through third grade be as follows:
• For kindergarten, one teacher per 18 students.
• For first grade, one teacher per 16 students.
• For second grade, one teacher per 17 students.
• For third grade, one teacher per 17 students.
Twelve of the thirteen school districts in Region 2 represented today shared that all educators are in favor of smaller class sizes, but are concerned the legislation in its current state will have unintended consequences for grades, K-12.
“To meet legislated class sizes, every district leader shared today that they are taking a hard look at increasing class sizes in grades 4-12 in order to move teaching positions from higher grades and subjects to K-3 classes,” states Dr. David Lewis, WCPS assistant superintendent & Superintendent’s round table representative. “Facilities are also a concern. In order to find space for added classes in grades K-3, many districts will need to add mobile units and/or convert art, music and PE spaces to traditional classrooms.”
Because there is no additional state funding for added staffing, mobile units, or building modifications provided in conjunction with the legislated class size reductions, district leaders are concerned about the impacts to student services and support programs moving forward.
“The real challenge is that funding formulas, which changed as a result of the recession, have caused school districts to be creative in how they funded needed positions when funding allotments for those positions were no longer there,” adds Dr. Dunsmore. “For instance, many districts have opted to use ‘positional allotment’ funds in recent years to maintain additional assistant principals and guidance counselors at larger high schools, or to maintain needed positions in the areas of music, art, or PE. For the 2017-18 school year, districts will have no choice but to use some of these same funds for added K-3 positions, which will certainly impact student supports and program offerings for schools.”
Regionally, the 12 districts at the round table communicated a regional need of adding more than 450 teachers and classroom spaces K-3 under the current grades K-3 class size legislation. The next steps for the school leaders will focus around budget planning with local Boards of Commissioners, looking at the need for emergency teacher licensure, planning for military student mobility and/or other K-3 students that enroll in schools midyear, public information sharing, and timelines for stakeholder communications.