Local News

Battle To Reduce Class Size In N.C. Brings New Set Of Challenges

Posted July 23, 2004

— Education experts claim student achievement increases when class size decreases, but the scramble to meet the new requirement brings another set of challenges.

Gov. Mike Easley's $50 million plan shrinks third-grade class size and adds teachers, which means Green Elementary School could gain another position.

"Until we're certain how many students are coming to Green, then we'll know for sure if the position is ours," principal Annice Hood said.

However, the year-round school does not have a lot of extra space and is not alone in that challenge.

"We are very crowded as it is because of the growth that we're having," associate superintendent Del Burns said.

The squeeze to accomodate the new third-grade positions is matched by the squeeze to fill them. As the district welcomes what it thought was its list of new teachers, it now has to hire 90 more.

"It's no small undertaking when you consider that adding 90 teachers is almost the equivalent of adding two whole schools," Burns said.

The state provides the positions, but it will still cost local districts. Wake County estimates that it will have to spend $400,000 for supplies and insurance costs.

"If you think about additional classrooms, you also have to equip the teacher. The teachers need a desk, a filing cabinet, staplers -- all the things required for a teacher to operate," Burns said.

Wake County schools can get creative. Instead of adding an additional classroom, the classroom can add an additional teacher.

School districts have to balance the initiative with state budget cuts in other areas of school funding. In the past three years, the governor has reduced class size for kindergarten through second grade.

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