After the General Assembly announced they want to cut down on classroom sizes, but aren’t willing to fund hiring more teachers, counties across the state are considering what options they have. The politicians in Raleigh passed a bill that will make K-3 class sizes from 19-21 students whereas K-3 classrooms are currently allowed to have up to 24 students. This was supposed to be put into effect this year, but due to budget concerns, it has been pushed back until the 2018-2019 school year. But this hasn’t stopped school boards from considering the negative ramifications of the new law, with school beginning soon. Wake County is considering several different options to accommodate the new law without extra funding, including teachers having traveling carts and no classrooms, shared classrooms and trailers.
Wake expects to have 559 fewer classrooms and 9,500 fewer seats a year from now. The district anticipates 2,500 additional students by 2021, which would add another 48 classrooms to the shortfall.
On Wednesday, the committee said more students could be housed in mobile classrooms on school campuses, and schools could convert spaces such as teachers’ lounges into classrooms.
To free up classrooms, art and music teachers could operate without classrooms of their own, traveling throughout schools with equipment on carts. School board member Jim Martin expressed concerns about that idea.
“The quality is incredibly different,” he said.
Another solution could be to convert some schools to the multi-track year-round calendar. Aaron Marcin, principal of Lead Mine Elementary School in Raleigh, said his school could accommodate up to 150 additional students if it converted to that schedule.
As class sizes in the lowest grades get smaller, older students in elementary schools could be in larger classes. The committee said fourth- and fifth-grade classes could have between 29 and 32 students.
Some principals are already making changes to comply with the state mandate, including having two teachers share one classroom space.
The school board is expected to consider the ideas during its Aug. 15 meeting. Over the next few months, the committee will continue to work on potential solutions.
“I’d like to point out the word ‘potential,’ ” said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for academic advancement. “All of this is dependent on where space is available and what makes sense.”
Martin said it will be tough to make enough changes to comply with the class-size rules. He suggested inviting the legislators who represent Wake County to a meeting about how the changes will affect the school system.
“When I look at this list, it’s not going to get you to 9,500 seats,” Martin said.
Ultimately, Wake needs more seats to comply with the state mandate, said Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities.
“The real answer is building more capacity,” he said.