ELIZABETHTOWN — Some changes in personnel may be coming down the line for Bladen County Schools.
At the recent Board of Education meeting, board members heard from staff about an issue they’ve been dealing with for the better part of a year. In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation mandating K-3 class enrollment be no higher than three above the maximum class size. Administrative leaders were looking at classes previously capped at 24 suddenly being lowered to 21, for example, in third grade.
According to Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor, the move was made because legislators were concerned that local education agencies were not using the positions granted to them to affect lower class size.
The decision received pushback from district administrators. School systems called foul, claiming lower class sizes couldn’t be accomplished without additional funding, since many schools don’t have adequate space for the additional classrooms that would be needed. Bladen County’s Elizabethtown Primary School is one such facility.
“We would have had to bring in mobile units or change student assignment,” Taylor told the board.
For the past year, districts have been in what Taylor called “negotiations” with the General Assembly concerning the issue.
Earlier this year, legislators and districts reached a compromise — classrooms are capped at 23. In addition, legislators implemented an LEA average, meaning the district as a whole cannot have class sizes above 20.
Bladen County’s response to the move has been to create combination classes — two grades in one class with one teacher.
“Small schools in remote areas — East Arcadia, for example — have kindergarten enrollment of 13 or 14 and a second class with 11 or 12,” explained Taylor.
Combination classes have been instituted at East Arcadia, Plain View, and Booker T. Washington.
The district had until Friday to bring the system into compliance with the new regulations, and superintendents across the state have to sign affadavits stating their districts’ compliance.
Systems with difficulty implementing the new regulations do have options, however. Local boards may ask the state board for additional resources, which Taylor joked he didn’t think “very likely” to be received, or they can ask for a waiver. Taylor also said Bladen County “would not be eligible” for a waiver based on the criteria for it.
“There are some changes we’ll have to make,” he told the board. “I’ll report to you during the November board meeting the options we will have.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.