A move last month to seek a class size waiver from the state Board of Education for class limits met with objections from two board members, but a school official on Monday said the move is nothing new and not using the waiver would cost the school system more than a $1 million.
“This is something that the Troup County School System has been doing repetitively for years, and all, basically, school systems in the state are doing this and asking for a flexibility waiver, not that they’re going to do this every year,” School system CFO Byron Jones said.
On Monday, Jones presented a breakdown of the Troup County School System’s waiver request compared to eight other school systems in the state that were equitable to Troup in student count or demographics. He also noted that the waiver is for the system’s average class sizes, not necessarily a per-class limit.
“So you could go six over (the state maximum in one class), and be two over in another class, as long as it averages up to four for the system,” Jones said.
Jones compared Troup’s waiver request to Coweta, Harris, Muscogee, Meriwether, Carroll, Douglas, Houston and Griffin-Spaulding school systems’ waivers. The breakdown included the maximum amount requested by waiver for eight programs: elementary regular education, English Language Learners (ELL), gifted, Early Intervention Program (EIP), Remedial Education Program (REP), vocational (CTAE), alternative education and special education.
He noted that Troup’s one-to-four student waiver for regular elementary classes was on par or less than the other school systems, matching Coweta and Houston counties. Carroll, Harris and Muscogee counties were lower with one to three. Meriwether, Douglas and Griffin-Spauling were higher, waiving up to five, six and 12 respectively.
Griffin-Spaulding had the largest waiver, requesting up to 12 students over the state maximum in each program.
The school system for next year had requested up to a five-student waiver for alternative education.
“In alternative education … we’ve had a waiver for one to two students in that concept for years and they’ve not been utilizing them,” Jones said. “… They’ve been going by the state regulation, even though you all have voted one to two (additional students per class average) for years.”
Troup and Coweta were equal on waivers for alternative education, while Muscogee, Meriwether, Carroll and Douglas had up to three. Harris and Houston had no waivers for alternative education.
Jones said kindergarten and third grade are currently the only areas where the average class size exceeds the state maximum. The average kindergarten class size is 20.8 students, compared to the state maximum of 20, and average third grade class size is 21.1, compared to state maximum of 21.
Jones said 26 of 278 elementary classrooms are affected by the waiver – 10 of 55 kindergarten classes, four of 51 first grade classes, three of 50 second grade classes, five of 45 third grade classes, two of 38 fourth grade classes and two of 39 fifth grade classes. The rest are under the average and don’t use the waiver. Because of the way students are spread across different schools, Jones said to keep all classrooms under the state maximum would require actually adding 26 elementary classes.
“We would have to add 26 additional classes if we did not have the waiver that we have right now,” Jones said.
Using an estimated $60,000 for a teacher’s pay and benefits, Jones said that would cost the school system an additional $1.56 million annually for personnel alone.