Richmond County Schools challenged by mandate to shrink class sizes

By: By Christine S. Carroll - Staff Writer
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HAMLET — If the school system thought it was difficult to reduce elementary class sizes and fill each room with a qualified teacher this year, HR director Julian Carter told School Board members Tuesday, just wait ‘til next year.

In a report modestly titled “Class Size Reduction Impact,” Carter told board members that newly implemented legislation seeking to reduce class sizes in the first four years of school brought “remarkably dramatic changes” in 2017-18. What it will bring in 2018-19, he said “is going to be very oppressive.”

“We firmly believe this law is going to create (further) hardships for our district,” Carter told board members.

“Something’s going to have to shift. Classes will get bigger in middle school and high school” so that elementary schools have enough teachers for smaller classes in more rooms, he said.

Districts who have not tried to keep class sizes small — as Richmond County has, said Superintendent Cindy Goodman — have fretted publicly that they may resort to trimming arts and physical education classes, and do without academic coaches for struggling students.

Goodman said trimming the arts was “way down on my list.”

What Richmond County Schools might face instead, Carter said, was trimming course offerings in higher grades as classes grow and teacher counts shrink, using more portable buildings and rooms previously considered too small to hold classes, and shifting students from a “full” school to one that may have an empty student desk or two.

Already, elementary teachers are being forced to share class assistants.

This year, the district trimmed the teacher census at the Ninth Grade Academy by one, said Carter, executive director of human resources for the district and interim principal at the Richmond Early College. That one change raised average class sizes from 21 to 27 at the school, he said by way of example.

“We managed this year,” he said, even though having to add two teachers cost the district about $100,000 it had to steal from somewhere else in the budget. Besides that, Carter said, “every district in this state is going to be fighting for teachers” from a shrinking pool from this year forward.

Board members sounded their criticisms of the legislation when Carter finished speaking, with member Joe Richardson sounding the most dire note.

“I think it’s another ploy to destroy public education,” Richardson said. “They threw this out there darned good and well knowing we couldn’t do it.”

Other members urged the board to ask parents to contact their legislators — and not just those in local delegations.

“Something needs to be done soon,” said Goodman, whose husband is state Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond. “We need some relief in this.”

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By Christine S. Carroll

Staff Writer

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]