MANATEE -- Early projections show some Manatee County schools will not meet class size requirements, according to district officials.
An informal poll completed recently to determine the overall enrollment status of each class showed that classes in elementary schools will exceed state mandates, they said. The poll was conducted about the same time state Department of Education officials were performing the formal count on class size.
Last school year, district officials had to pay more than $60,000 in penalties for not meeting class size. This year, Schools Chief Financial Officer Jim Drake said it looks like the penalty will be anywhere from $75,000-$125,000 depending upon if the state agrees that the district’s growth played a part in not meeting class size.
“It appears that the district could be as many as 228 students over on a class-by-class basis despite the best efforts of the district,” Drake said in a memo to school board members.
While five elementary schools have no classes that exceed class size maximums, Drake said six elementary schools are one student over for the entire school. Fifteen elementary schools have “class size issues” totaling 143 students. These schools, Drake said, had unexpected enrollment growth. Three elementary schools class sizes are at one grade level affecting 14 students. Six elementary schools have classroom sizes totaling 72 students in at least two grade levels, Drake said.
“It’s so difficult with a district like ours,” Drake said. “There’s a lot of mobility.”
The class-size law, which was established in 2002, requires 18 students per class in kindergarten through third grades. Fourth through eighth grade class sizes should not exceed 22 students. And, ninth through 12th grade classes should be capped at 25 students per class.
Monday, school board members will be asked to approve exceeding class sizes after the state’s October count, in accordance with a new state law. With board members’ approval, the district will no longer have to worry about moving students or offering other solutions to meet class size requirements.
“I believe a high quality system of public schools does not include moving students from class to class and from teacher to teacher up until the middle of October to be compliant with class size,” School Superintendent Tim McGonegal said.
At the beginning of the year, the school district’s enrollment allowed for officials to hire an additional 20 teachers. Twelve teachers were hired for elementary, two for middle and six for high schools once the school year started, said Danny Lundeen, supervisor student demographics, projections and assignments.
The formal count by the state won’t be completed and verified until mid-November, district officials said.