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Stanly County Schools will need additional teachers to comply with class size limits

In order to be in compliance with new state K-3 class size limits for the upcoming school year, Stanly County Schools will need an additional 15 teachers for those grade levels.

The school system had 133 K-3 teachers for the 2020-2021 school year but, assuming it will have a similar population, Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis estimates SCS will need 148 K-3 teachers for 2021-2022 in order to be in line with size limits.

Dennis estimates the total cost for the additional teachers will be around $900,000, which the school system will have to fund itself.

“This will be a challenge for us,” he said during a joint meeting with the Board of Education and County Commissioners Tuesday evening.

The funded class size allotment ratio for K-3 for next school year is:

  • One teacher per 18 students for kindergarten;
  • One teacher per 16 students for first grade; and
  • One teacher per 17 students for both second and third grade.

Even though a classroom could have multiple teacher assistants, the ratio only applies to certified teachers. It applies to virtual learning as well.

Individual classrooms can exceed the size limits. Kindergarten classes can have a maximum of 21 students, first grade classes can have a maximum of 19 and second/third classes can have a maximum of 20. The K-3 district average has to be aligned with the state requirements.

If the district average for a specific grade has one more student than is required, “I have to find a new classroom and a new teacher to start,” Dennis said.

The state size mandate could lead to some split classes at elementary schools next school year, he said.

“It’s not a capacity issue on how many kids I can fit in a school, it goes now, especially at the elementary level, to how many classrooms I’m going to need in that school,” Dennis said.

He said some schools, especially with bigger classrooms, will need to utilize additional space, but he wants to avoid using mobile units.

There are two exceptions to the K-3 class size limits: dual language immersion classes (Endy Elementary will have three cohorts of students learning English and Spanish in K-2) and program enhancement classes such as art, music, P.E./health and foreign languages.

The State Board of Education will not grant waivers for excess class size in kindergarten through third grade except under specific circumstances laid out in the general statue. These include emergencies or acts of God that impact availability of classroom space and an unanticipated increase in student population for a school in excess of more than 2 percent of the average daily membership of the school.

The school board approved a recommendation last November by Dennis to request a waiver to allow Norwood Elementary’s third grade classes to exceed the individual class size limit set by the state for the current school year. As a result of the pandemic, SCS chose acts of God as the reason for needing the waiver.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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