LAURINBURG —Class sizes will be smaller for the next school year as a result of the passage of House Bill 1030, school officials said this week.
The changes to the class size allotments for the 2017-18 school year for Scotland County Schools were discussed during a joint meeting of the school board and the county commissioners and briefly during Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
Jay Toland, chief finance officer for the school district, went over the changes and what they will mean for Scotland County.
“For 16-17, this school year, everything stays the same — we are only talking about grades K-3,” Toland said. “The state allots a 1 to 18 ratio, but the law says you can have 1 to 21 as an average and 1 to 24 as a maximum — that goes for K-3. The maximum can be three over that average so you can have a classroom within the district that has 21 children in one school — but for the whole district the average has to be one to 18.”
Currently Scotland County Schools allots one teacher per 21 students in all three grade levels. Next year the number of students per teacher will vary:
— In kindergarten, the ratio will be one teacher per 16 students, with a maximum of 19 students.
— First grade will be one teacher per 16 students with a maximum of 19 students.
— Second and third grade will be one teacher per 17 students, with a maximum of 20 students.
Toland said the school system tried to determine how many classrooms would have to be added to accommodate the new allotments — with and without consolidation.
“Covington, for example, using this year’s allocations and adjusting for the new the class sizes, would need to add a teacher in Kindergarten and first grade. Second and third grade would remain unchanged,” said Toland.
Without the consolidation the district would need to add a total of 22 classrooms, which Toland broke down per elementary school — I. Ellis Johnson would need to add three classrooms, Laurel Hill would need five, North Laurinburg would need two, Sycamore Lane would need four, South Scotland and Wagram would need three and Covington would need two.
The numbers were quite a bit different when Phase II of the consolidation was taken into account — that phase would involve closing four elementary schools, building a new school and adding on to two others.
Laurel Hill and Sycamore Lane elementary schools would each need to add seven classrooms, Wagram would need to add 24 and the new school would have six. Toland did mention that the number of classrooms in the new school could be adjusted depending on the number of students.
Toland said according to the count of classrooms, the district did over a year ago, it would have a total of 239 classrooms, including fourth and fifth grade. With the new allotments the district would need 157 classrooms, so there are enough extra classrooms — maybe.
“There seems to be room to handle that, but I don’t know about the special classes because we don’t have that in our analysis this year,” Toland said. “But I’m sure they are using a majority of those ‘extra’ classrooms for special instruction. There is going to be extra space, but what is going to affected is what are they doing with those rooms now?”
The 82-room difference doesn’t take into account music, art, or physical education classes — which are offered in grades K-5. The issue with lowering the maximum number of children per classroom means the school will receive less money, but will still have to find a way to finance those additional classes.
“The trick will be, now right now the max is 1 to 24 but we have 1 to 21, with that wiggle room we pay for PE, music and art,” said Toland. “They (Department of Public Instruction) aren’t going to give us more money, they are going to hold us true to that allocation, you’re not going to have anymore wiggle room. The gym, music and art that was funded traditionally through the general allotment. It’s not going to affect all of them because this is only grades K-3, but it will effect some of them where we will have to find alternative funding solutions for that. So the opportunity would be where do we fund these special positions from?”
Schools Superintendent Ron Hargrave said the system will have to have extensive discussions on how those classes will be funded.
“We would also have an opportunity to go back and see how we utilize our Title I money,” said Hargrave. “There is a lot of conversations that will have to take place to make this work.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.