Wake School Board still unsure how to cut class sizes next year

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Just weeks into this school year, many districts, including Wake County Schools, already have questions looming about next school year – including where students will go and how schools will keep class sizes down.

Currently, North Carolina lawmakers require no more than 20 students per classroom for kindergarten through third grades this year.

Next school year, that changes to require no more than an average of 18 students in kindergarten, 16 in first grade and 17 in second- and third-grade classrooms.

The class size issue was not a sole focus at the Wake County School’s fall retreat Tuesday, but the topic came up in many conversations.

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Board members do not know how they will make new state class size requirements work yet.

Wake County School Board Chair Monika Johnson-Hostler said there is no single solution.

“Everything’s on the table for us to take a look at what the options are, but where we’ve not landed is what we’ll actually do as a district,” she told CBS North Carolina.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill to go into effect next school year requiring the new K-3 average class sizes.

“If we’re saying there’s 16 kids per adult, then what does that look like in a classroom? So do you put 32 kids and two teachers teaching in one room?” Johnson-Hostler said.

According to Wake County Public Schools, the requirements mean the district must find the equivalent of 9,500 student seats, 559 classrooms or 14 schools.

“Wake County is nowhere near deciding what we’re going to do with the need of 14 schools, which is what we anticipate the full number would be. We’re of course not building 14 schools, so what does that mean for us to actually reduce the ratio in our classes K-3?” Johnson-Hostler said.

The requirements could mean teachers of special classes like art and music give up a physical classroom and other rooms and closets to convert into more classroom space.

The district could even move more kids from over-enrolled schools to under-enrolled schools.

“What does it mean for transporting kids across the county? There was not a huge appetite in this space for that given the desperate needs across where our needs are going to be – where the most growth is we’ll need the most classrooms,” Johnson-Hostler said.

The board continues talking with lawmakers about how to implement the class size requirements, she said, and whether any additional money will come with it.

As for when any decisions will be made, Johnson-Hostler said, “We don’t implement them until next year, so luckily it’s not today.”

Wake County School staff will give the board some recommendations on how to make things work next Tuesday.

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