Wake County Schools

Parents say class-size mandate 'not looking out for best interests of students'

Posted October 2

— Dozens of parents are preparing to rally outside the Legislative Building Tuesday to voice frustration over the new class-size mandate.

Parents say the mandate, which limits class size in kindergarten through third grade, will force their kids to be reassigned to new schools that are, in some cases, far away from their homes.

Abbotts Creek Elementary School opened just two years ago, but it is already overcrowded. In an effort to meet the new class size limit, the Wake County Public School System is preparing to boot dozens of students out.

Ally Francis attends second grade at the school and is among 77 students who could be pulled from the school next year.

Abbotts Creek Elementary is less than a mile from Francis’ home, but she would be reassigned elsewhere under a current school district proposal designed to meet requirements for the new statewide class size limits.

The proposal creates the need for more teachers, classrooms and staff, and critics, including many parents, say that, while the mandate is well-intentioned, it is underfunded and causing chaos.

“This may be kind of a knee-jerk reaction. Let’s scoot everybody around so we’ve got the letter of the law covered, and it’s not looking out for the best interest of our students,” said parent Beth Smith.

Smith and dozens of other parents are petitioning lawmakers for help.

“I’ve written a lot of emails so far,” said Ally’s mother, Jamie Francis.

Supporters of the class size mandate point to tens of millions of dollars earmarked for reassignment and blame local districts for failing to spend the money wisely.

Many local school districts, including Wake County, said their hands are now tied.

Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake, sits on the House Education Committee and is pushing for a bill that would give schools more flexibility on class sizes while still calling for a reduction “to give us more time in the schools to find ways to solve these problems- the class size problems, the transfer problem.”

The current Wake County reassignment proposal is a first draft. The district is gathering feedback from parents and is expected to present a second draft on Oct. 17.

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