PENDER COUNTY — The Pender County Board of Commissioners are requesting a slower phase-in process to a new state law requiring the reduction of classroom sizes for kindergarten through third grade.
The law would reduce class sizes for kindergarten to 18 students per teacher, first grade to 16 students per teacher, and in second and third grades to 17 students per teacher.
Session Law 2017-9 passed in April, during the previous school year but since the county begins its budget process in January, the board has created a resolution that requests the General Assembly fully fund the smaller class sizes, and allow for the multi-year implementation of the smaller class sizes.
According to estimates, in order to fully comply with the new law, Pender County would have to hire an additional 20 teachers for the 2018-19 school year.
The school system would also be required to convert art and music rooms into traditional classrooms due to a lack of space, and the art and music teachers would be forced to, “travel from room to room with a cart to deliver program enhancement classes.”
“The state mandated class size reductions for kindergarten through third grade will have serious budget implications for the upcoming school year for counties across the state. The General Assembly should consider delaying implementation during the special session in January since school districts and counties begin their budget planning in January,” according to the Pender County Board of Commissioner’s agenda.
The resolution cites several reasons why commissioners are asking for more leniency including the difficulty of finding new teachers, finical burdens, and the lack of traditional classrooms.
“An immediate reduction in the K-3 class size maximum will worsen an already very difficult environment for LEAs (Local Education Authorities) in finding licensed and qualified teachers to fill classrooms, most likely leading to more classrooms taught by long-term substitutes or lateral-entry teachers, who do not have the pedagogy and classroom management training necessary,” according to the resolution.
The Pender County Board of Commissioners approved the resolution unanimously on Tuesday.