Board approves larger class size

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Your child might be feeling the effects of this year's budget cuts in Richmond County.

School board members are asking the state to waive classroom size limits for 62 elementary classrooms, which would allow the board to continue to exceed the legal limit.

When the board set its budget in June, it eliminated dozens of teaching positions as part of a series of budget cuts. That decision caused school officials to raise the number of pupils in some classrooms this year. The board formalized Thursday those increases at 17 elementary schools.

"I would prefer not to have to," board President Jimmy Atkins said after the meeting, but added it's in the children's best interest. "I really think having a highly qualified teacher in the classroom, they are able to adapt and overcome."

The resolution approved by the board calls the request for 62 waivers "miniscule" considering there are 813 elementary school classes in the county.

The affected elementary schools are Copeland, Craig-Houghton, Garrett, Glenn Hills, Goshen, Gracewood, Jamestown, Lamar, Meadowbrook, A. Brian Merry, Monte Sano, Sue Reynolds, Terrace Manor, Warren Road, Wheeless Road, Wilkinson Gardens and Windsor Spring.

Twelve of the schools have seen an increase of one pupil in the affected grades, but three schools have three extra pupils in some classes.

The only dissenting vote for the resolution was from board member Barbara Pulliam.

"I just think we're compromising our students' learning here. Our classes are just too big," she said during committee meetings on Tuesday. "Learning will not be taking place in there."

The number of children in each classroom continually changes because of the high transiency of the school population, but Mr. Atkins said the board might need to be more proactive in spreading the student body around.

"Rezoning could be an option, but it may not have to be a matter of rezoning," Mr. Atkins said.

The board should review zone exceptions and consider asking parents to move their children to nearby schools that have space available, he said. The requests now go before the Georgia Board of Education for final approval next month.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

- The board approved using an aerosol spray to help detect illegal drugs in its schools.


- Teen Years 101, a talk by Columbia County Magistrate Judge Wade Padgett, has tentatively been approved for 7 p.m. Nov. 27-28 at T.W. Josey High School. The first day is for parents and the second is for teens.

- John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School was announced a finalist for a Grammy Signature Gold Award.


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