BOE approves class-size waivers, land donation

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education approved unanimously Tuesday the recommendation for a resolution that will allow the Newton County School System to submit a waiver to the Georgia Board of Education for any elementary and middle school classes that exceed the maximum class size by one student.

When Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at the NCSS, presented the waiver application at its November work session, she said she didn't have any class-size waivers at the time.

"We're doing this in case we have a class that goes over by one student," she said at the work session.

As of Wednesday afternoon, she said she still didn't have any waivers.

"Not yet," she said.

Robertson said class sizes normally exceed the maximum requirement after the holidays.

"It's usually after the holidays with people transferring out or people moving in," she said earlier this month. "Whether or not it will go up this year, I don't know."

For the 2006-07 school year, the first year for the waivers, the school system applied 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 earlier this month.

A waiver application is needed as a result of a 2006 legislative change.

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 exceeds the maximum size by one student.

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

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

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

If the class exceeds the maximum size by two students, the class will have to be split, resulting in a need for another classroom and teacher.

Earlier this school year, the Newton County BOE approved a resolution for a maximum class size at the high school level, as required by the state DOE, so the school system doesn't submit waivers to the state for those classes that go over.

In other Newton County BOE news:

' The board unanimously approved making a donation of acreage for the right of way on Salem Road to the Department of Transportation as a result of the two Newton County schools currently being built.

"The last several months we've been in intense negotiations with the Department of Transportation," said Kent Campbell, school board attorney, at Tuesday's board meeting. "What has finally been resolved is (the DOT has) decided to widen that road to accommodate these two schools."

The resolution authorizing the donation of the land declares more than 1 acre of land alongside Salem Road "'unnecessary or inconvenient' for the operation of the Newton County School District.

"The Newton County Board of Education does hereby agree to donate said 1.790 acres of land to the Georgia Department of Transportation in return for granting of three access lanes along the southern right of way of Ga. 162 (Salem Road)," the resolution reads.

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