Wake County elementary schools are struggling to meet new state-mandated cuts in elementary school class sizes this year in advance of deeper reductions that go into effect in 2018.
State lawmakers lowered the maximum class sizes for kindergarten through third grade for the 2017-18 school year by one child to an average of 20 students for school districts and a maximum of 23 kids in individual classes. Wake elementary schools will be required to keep an average of 20 children in K-3 classes to help maintain the district’s average, resulting in schools juggling their rosters around.
Some year-round elementary schools required families to change their tracks to balance class sizes. Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for academic advancement, said schools that exceed 23 students in a K-3 class may have to reorganize classes during the upcoming school year.
“Students don’t arrive in multiples of 20 by grade level,” Moore told school board members Tuesday.
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At the same time, Moore said that some elementary schools are looking at class sizes of 30 children in fourth and fifth grades. She said those schools were told to not go any higher.
Initially, state lawmakers were set to lower K-3 class sizes for this fall to between an average of 16 and 18 students for districts and 19 and 21 students in individual classes. Amid concerns that the changes could lead to layoffs of art, music and physical education teachers, legislators approved a compromise to slightly lower sizes this year, with most changes coming in 2018.
Wake school officials said Tuesday it would cost an additional $24.6 million in local funding to meet the new K-3 class sizes in 2018 if the state doesn’t provide more money for arts and PE teachers. But even now, they said the smaller 2017-18 class sizes will be a challenge since lawmakers reduced flexibility in how state waivers can be given.