Education

Wake schools scrambling over crowded classrooms

Posted December 16, 2009 4:57 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2009 7:05 p.m. EST

Education

— Wake County's school board has a new challenge: reducing classroom sizes during tough budget times.

The Board of Education on Tuesday learned the state did not grant waivers for 329 oversized kindergarten to third-grade classes.

North Carolina law allows for 18 students for every one adult in those grades.

Most years, the Wake County Public School System applies for a waiver so teachers can work around the rule, but this year, the state Department of Public Instruction rejected that request, leaving them in violation of the law.

This has many schools scrambling and the salary of the school system's superintendent on the line.

Principal Lisa Cruz says first-grade classes at Jeffrey's Grove Elementary School in Raleigh have closer to an average of 29 students this school year.

"We've got first- and second-grade classes that have more students than we would like," Cruz said.

She hired a part-time teacher to help, but there is not enough money in the budget to bring on the full-time staff needed to put the school in compliance.

"We'll do what we need to do to comply with what the state tells us we need to do," she said. "It's going to mean a little bit of shuffling of kids, and we have to figure that out."

Some principals said they are surprised that the state did not grant them a waiver this year, especially in light of state and local budget cuts.

The DPI states the school system needs to make changes. If not, Wake County school Superintendent Del Burns' state salary could be withheld.

Many schools are shifting teaching assistants and relying on volunteers while they figure out the next step.

East Garner Elementary School Principal James Overman said the process is tricky, especially while trying to balance year-round student schedules. He said the situation would not affect the quality of education the children receive.

"We are working hard and our staff is working hard to ensure that students are getting the best education possible, that there are other things in place to help assist with class size overages (and) that student needs are being met," he said.

A DPI spokeswoman said that, in most cases, the county and the state can reach an agreement before penalties are incurred.

The school system said it is trying to find additional resources to meet the requirements.