Wake County Schools

Wake school officials say class size cap could hurt education

Posted September 5, 2017 5:43 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:17 a.m. EDT

— A state mandate to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade is meant to improve learning, but some schools in Wake County are running out of room to make it work.

School board members on Tuesday discussed what it would take to meet the requirements of the new mandate and said 9,500 more seats would be required.

Most elementary schools can make it happen, in some cases by holding multiple classes in a classroom, blending grades and increasing class sizes in upper grades.

"We would have to look at some combination classes, putting some of our specials on a cart, looking to change or convert our computer lab or what we call our collaborative space, even our art and music classrooms," said Sycamore Creek Elementary School Principal Kristen Faircloth.

The class size mandate is more difficult for 27 schools which could face attendance caps. Transfer students at those schools may be sent back to their base assignment school.

"Some of our principals think the sky is falling," said Superintendent Jim Merrill.

Board member Bill Fletcher said, in some cases, the class size mandate intended to improve learning could actually hurt it.

“There needs to be some rational discussion about that with the folks that made the decision that this is the right allocation strategy for every school in North Carolina,” he said. "It certainly isn't going to improve instruction for the majority of our kids."

School board members are still weighing their options and the discussion will continue in a meeting later this month.

"I haven't heard anything said about looking at a long-term change to providing a whole lot more seats," said board member Donald Agee.

The district on Tuesday evening also approved pay raises for transportation staff. The change increases starting salaries for bus drivers from $12.55 per hour to $13.11 per hour and reduces the time it takes for a driver to reach the $15 per hour threshold from 13 years to seven years.

"I appreciate the dedication and commitment of Wake County bus drivers. This increase in pay is important as we work to retain these critical employees and recruit additional staff,” said Bob Snidemiller, WCPSS Senior Director for Transportation.