Newton Board of Education to vote on class size waivers

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education is expected to accept a recommendation for a resolution that will allow the Newton County School System to submit a waiver to the state board for any elementary and middle school classes that go over the maximum class size by one student.

"I do not have any class size waivers at this time," said Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at the NCSS, during the BOE work session. "We're doing this in case we have a class that goes over by one student."

In 2006, the class size system average requirement was removed, instead setting a certain class size number for different grades.

This school year, kindergarten classes without a paraprofessional are limited to 18, while one with a paraprofessional may have 20. First- through third-grade classes with or without a paraprofessional are limited to 21.

In grades four through eight, the maximum class size for core classes is 28.

Since the legislative change in 2006, school systems must submit a waiver application to the state Department of Education when a class goes over the maximum class size by one student.

The waivers are sent in when the class size actually goes over the maximum number, not before, Robertson said.

For instance, if one first-grade class at an elementary school is 22 due to a transfer in, while another is 19 due to a transfer out, the school system still will submit a waiver for the entire grade-level at that school, so as not to move a student or split the class.

If the waiver application isn't approved by the Newton County BOE Tuesday and a class goes over by one student, or if a class goes over the maximum size by two students, the class will have to be split, causing a need for another classroom and teacher.

"As a parent, I would much rather have this flexibility, rather than have a class split," said board member Cathy Dobbs in the board's work session.

Robertson said Monday the purpose of the waivers is to not disrupt instruction.

"Any time you take a grade level and split it up and get a new teacher, you are disrupting instruction," she said.

She said most of the time, class sizes go over the maximum after the holidays.

"It's usually after the holidays with people transferring out or people moving in," she said. "Whether or not it will go up this year, I don't know. We'll have to watch and see what happens."

She said if the schools start out the first or second week of school with classes going over their maximums, those classes will be adjusted.

"That's way too early to request a waiver," she said. "These waivers are really for exceptional circumstances. We certainly allowed enough teachers to where everyone is well below the maximum class size."

Robertson said the county has grown a lot over the past few years - growing over 1,000 students a year for the past five years - but the increase in students this year is not as high as predicted.

According to the enrollment report for Nov. 8, kindergarten through fifth grade had 191 more students than about the same time in 2006; middle school increased by 54 students.

For the 2006-07 school year, the first year for the waivers, the school system applied for and was approved for 17 waivers - 11 in December, four in February and two in April.

"Since our growth has slowed a bit, I do not anticipate this number for this school year," Robertson said.

The Newton County BOE will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the BOE building, located at 2109 Newton Dr. NE in Covington.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.