ECPPS preps for mandated reduced K-3 class sizes

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools is taking intermediate steps this school year to reduce class sizes in grades k-3 in anticipation of mandatory class size reductions next year.

The N.C. General Assembly passed legislation this year setting district-wide class size averages and maximum classes for grades k-3 beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. The law requires the average class size in grades k-3 for local school districts not to exceed 20 students and individual classes in those grades not to exceed 23 students.

ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner told the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education during committee meetings Monday afternoon that he tried as hard as possible to get close this school year to the teacher-student ratios that will be required next year.

The class size mandates were originally slated to take effect this school year, but legislators postponed the implementation to give school districts around the state time to plan and to give the legislature itself further opportunity to discuss possible funding for additional teachers to meet the class size mandates.

Cartner told the school board he plans to provide regular updates on plans for meeting the class size mandates so board members and the public can stay informed on the matter.

The superintendent said six additional teachers were needed this year to reduce class sizes. He said he had been planning on adding six teachers next year but now thinks based on current projections that he may need to add only three teachers next year.

Answering a question from board member Denauvo Robinson, Cartner said he believes the school district will have enough classrooms to accommodate the mandated  class size reduction. He said facilities will be a problem for some districts but should not be a problem for ECPPS.

Central Elementary School could be cutting it close, he said, but has a room or two currently being used for other purposes that could be converted to classroom use if necessary.

Cartner reported to the board that J.C. Sawyer Elementary School and River Road Middle School each gained one teacher after the 10th day based on the number of students at each of those schools.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Warden asked about mobile units.

Cartner said he thinks ECPPS will be able to do everything it needs to do in the 2018-2019 school year without having to use mobile units. He said that in many school districts large numbers of mobile units will be required next year.

But looking ahead a little further, ECPPS might need mobile units for the 2019-2020 school year, Cartner said.

The district-wide student-teacher ratios are 17.38 students per teacher in kindergarten, 16.35 in first-grade, 18.29 in second-grade, 16.71 in third-grade, 20.65 in fourth-grade, and 21.13 in fifth-grade.

ECPPS reported 5,572 students in grades k-12 in its 10th day enrollment report to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. When pre-k is factored in the figure climbs to 5,711.