The Onslow County Board of Education wants to see legislative action to prevent the severe negative impacts expected if new requirements for class size reductions in grades K-3 continue.
A presentation on the K-3 class size issue will be given during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Education to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Blue Creek Elementary School. The board will consider a resolution requesting action from the General Assembly to provide the flexibility to avoid severe impacts such as cuts in arts, music and physical education teaching positions in K-3; larger classes in the higher grades and the need for physical space for classrooms that the school districts don’t have.
The school board discussed the issue at length during Friday’s special meeting and agreed to have staff draft the resolution so the board as a whole has expressed its concerns about the new class size requirements for K-3, which are set to take effect with the next school year.
While House Bill 13 now before the General Assembly won’t eliminate some impacts, school officials said the proposed legislation would help restore some flexibility in funding and class size and lessen the burden.
“It’s not the best bill for us but it’s better than not having it at all,” Onslow County Schools Superintendent Rick Stout said during the workshop.
Along with the issue of physical space for additional classrooms, Stout said that by drawing teaching positions and resources to K-3 grades, you are taking away resources in other areas.
“That is not a good outlook for our district or any other district,” Stout said.
Board members also noted the importance of making sure the parents and general public understand the extent of the impacts and importance of supporting the school system in getting HB13 passed.
While the general idea of reducing class size is good, the issue is complex and the can affect taxpayers as well if meeting the requirements means having to request more money from county government.
“We have another unfunded mandate,” school board Earl Taylor said of the new requirements, which does not include additional funding for new teaching positions.
The challenge is helping the public to understand a complex issue that goes beyond creating new classrooms.
The school board said they hope the presentation at the Tuesday meeting will help to share information with the public. The board instructed staff to include a letter with the resolution to explain the potential impacts. Board member Paul Wiggins said the parents and school community are a good resource and open to hearing the concerns and issues in the schools.
“We need to organize our parents. Let’s call them together,” Wiggins said.
In other businesses, the Board of Education will also consider several other proposed resolutions to come from discussions at the Friday workshop.
One of the resolutions expresses the board’s opposition to making school board elections partisan.
The Onslow County Board of Education is currently elected on a nonpartisan basis and the majority of the board agreed during the workshop that it should stay that way. They noted the overwhelming support of moving to nonpartisan elections during the public referendum held in 1993.
Board members Bob Williams and Jonathan Merritt support a change back to partisan elections, seeing it as another way to help voters understand the general philosophies of the candidates.
The board will also consider a resolution in support of school district’s having local control is setting school calendars.
The board also agreed Friday to a public censure of Merritt for violations of board policies related to conduct and alcohol use. The letter of censure will be formally approved during the meeting.