February 7, 2013

Class size reduction at schools discussed in Hamilton

February 7, 2013 Joyce Marie Taylor Suwannee Democrat

Jasper — At a special called meeting of the Hamilton County School Board on Monday, Jan. 28, one item of business was the class size reduction compliance plan for the 2012-13 school year, which was briefly discussed before being approved by the board.

“What you have in front of you is the rebuttal that will be submitted to the state dealing with all the ratios and calculations within the schools,” Superintendent Thomas Moffses said to the members of the school board. “For the most part, we are in compliance.”

The only issue, Moffses explained, is due to the children of migrant families that causes school enrollment figures to fluctuate at certain times of the year.

For school districts not in compliance pursuant to Section 1003.03, of the Florida Statutes, they are required to submit a brief explanation of each school’s plan to meet class size requirements for the October 2013 FTE student survey.

In order to participate in the restoration calculation, the district had to submit their plan by Feb. 1. In the district’s rebuttal, they listed each school and its plan for compliance.

For Central Hamilton Elementary, the rebuttal stated that they maintain a 14.6:1 ratio in grades PK-3, and a 15.76:1 ratio in grades 4-6. The overage occurred in the 6th grade where there were 23 sixth graders for the entire school. It further stated that they struggle with the best solution in a small school where there may be only one or two students over the limit, and that consideration is being given to school consolidation and other options.

At Hamilton County High School, the rebuttal stated that although the school operates at a 1:17.22 ratio at the school level, issues in creating the master schedule create class-level overages. Additionally, it was stated that they continue to look at the scheduling process and other options such as virtual programs and dual enrollment to alleviate the overages.

North Hamilton Elementary’s rebuttal stated that subsequent to the calculation, one teacher was added to the staff to eliminate the overage at the second grade level. Also, subsequent to the calculation, the school experienced the usual decrease in population of its migrant students. This brought two grade levels into compliance.

Lastly, at South Hamilton Elementary, the rebuttal stated that as discussed relative to Central Elementary, the district continues to struggle with meeting the requirement in its small schools that can support only one class per grade level. Consideration is being made regarding school

consolidation to rectify this problem.

Director of Business Services Bonnie Penner said the rebuttal is the last step of the process in order to get their penalty for non-compliance reviewed. Penner said she estimates their new penalty will be reduced to under $50,000.

“We were close to $300,000,” she said.

Just at the elementary level, Penner said it would have taken a minimum of four extra teacher hires in order to comply with class size requirements.

“In reality, the best financial decision was made,” she said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the rebuttal which was then forwarded to the Florida Department of Education.

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