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Some Wake County Parents Like Small School Concept

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County schools spent the last year looking at whether the district should move towards smaller schools. While the option is more expensive in the long run, supporters said it can help students, but there are other ways to make a big building feel small.

Katie Isakson has not started school yet, but her father, Eric, thinks smaller is better.

"I would imagine 15 or 20 kids to a teacher. I would imagine that would be a reasonable size," he said.

The small school concept refers to total head count, not ncessarily class size.

"Instead of a population of 600 elementary student, we're talking about 300 or 400, or a high school where we have 1,600 to 2,000, we're talking 700 to 1,000," school board member Tom Oxholm said.

Wake County officials do not want to keep building more and more large schools, but they agree that building more and more smaller schools is just too expensive. They are looking for ways to make schools feel smaller like dividing up space by grade.

They are also looking at cosntructing buildings differently, configuring the building to look different and serve students in smaller areas.

School officials claim the research on small schools is clear.

"There is more teacher satisfaction, more teacher retention, higher family satisfaction with the schools, lower dropout rates, all kind of positive things occur," Oxholm said.

The concept may be more suited for younger grades. Principals say high schools with fewer than 1,600 students would have trouble offering electives and Advanced Placement courses. However, some parents think the school system may be on to something.

"It would be more personal, for it to be that small. Parents could get to know every other child in your child's class. You could get to know every teacher," parent Maurice Johnson said.

Small school concepts will be considered as the school board designs new classrooms for the county.