Wake Ed

Wake County to discuss impact of state K-3 class size changes

Art teacher Theresa Workman leads a third-grade class on June 23, 2016 at Rand Road Elementary School in Garner. Wake County school leaders warn that arts & PE might be cut if the state doesn’t back off on new K-3 class size restrictions.
Art teacher Theresa Workman leads a third-grade class on June 23, 2016 at Rand Road Elementary School in Garner. Wake County school leaders warn that arts & PE might be cut if the state doesn’t back off on new K-3 class size restrictions. tlong@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board will work on its legislative agenda Tuesday, swear in new board member Kathy Hartenstine, get a first look at 2018-19 school calendars and deal with a variety other issues.

During the work session, staff will present items that Wake may lobby for during this year’s long session of the General Assembly. Items up for consideration include school board election maps, school calendar flexibility and relief from new K-3 class size limits..

The school board wants state lawmakers to ease off on K-3 class size reductions this year that the district estimates could require 460 new teachers. Wake school officials say it could cost $27 million in additional local dollars to meet the new class size rules while still being able to offer arts and physical education in elementary schools.

A bill was introduced last month in the state House that would reduce the extent of the new class size reductions. School districts around the state are backing House Bill 13, which is scheduled to be discussed Tuesday by the House Education Committee.

The school board is also keeping any eye on how the General Assembly responds to last year’s U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declaring unconstitutional the maps that state lawmakers adopted for the school board in 2013. In court documents, state legislative leaders said they’d work on new Wake school maps during this year’s legislative session.

School leaders want the General Assembly to restore the election maps that the school board had adopted in 2011 rather than create new district lines.

Also during the work session, staff will present draft 2018-19 schedules for traditional-calendar, modified calendar and year-round schools.

After the work session, Kathy Hartenstine will be sworn in to take the District 7 school board seat that’s been vacant since Zora Felton died Nov. 16. The board voted 5-3 on Jan. 26 to pick Hartenstine, a retired Wake educator, over attorney Mary Pollard to fill the vacancy.

Once in office, Hartenstine and the rest of the board will have a lot to vote on during the regular meeting. Items include:

▪ Approve new magnet school themes of University Connections: School of Design, Art and Engineering for Southeast Raleigh High School, Center for Computer Science and Math Discovery for Bugg Elementary School and Environmental Connections for Lincoln Heights and Millbrook elementary schools.

The name of Bugg’s new magnet theme was changed from computer science and robotics after school board members raised questions about how it would be implemented.. Wake will fund the new themes out of local dollars if it doesn’t win a federal magnet schools grant this year.

▪ The board is scheduled to waive the co-curricular and activities policy so that interscholastic sports isn’t offered to students attending the new North Wake College and Career Academy. The board is holding off on making a decision about what to do with sports eligibility for students at the existing early colleges.

▪ The board is scheduled to give initial approval to a new policy explaining how parents can object to books and other instructional material used at their child’s school. It puts into policy the process that is currently used.

▪ The board is scheduled to give initial approval to a new policy that explains students won’t be allowed to charge meals if they don’t have enough money to pay for the food. It puts into policy existing guidelines saying students who don’t have enough money are given a substitute free meal of fruits, vegetables and water.

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