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The Georgia Board of Education announced Monday morning more flexibility in class sizes.
There won’t be a maximum class size for the 2010-2011 school year, but schools must submit local school board approval before implementing any class size changes.
In the Gainesville and Hall County systems, the change won’t make much of a difference.
“Unless things get much worse, it won’t affect us at all,” Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said. “We plan to keep meeting class maximums and won’t change anything at all in the short term.”
Gainesville City Schools already has flexibility built into its charter school grants.
“The change won’t affect us technically, but the parents want to keep class sizes as small as possible,” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “In these economic times, we’re struggling to maintain that and employ people. ... We just have to make do with the people we have.”
On May 17, State Superintendent Kathy Cox discussed the idea that most Georgia schools should become charter schools to allow flexibility.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get the money to go back to the class sizes we had years ago,” she said at a public hearing held at Lanier Career Academy in Gainesville.
The state has sought ways to lighten limitations as extreme budget cuts cause tough fiscal decisions and layoffs. Earlier this year, the state allowed school systems to adjust next year’s school calendar, allowing shorter school years and furlough days as long as instructional time remains the same. For Gainesville and Hall County, this means no early release days and fewer teacher work days.
The class size exemption doesn’t remove the requirement for school districts to continue to meet federal and state accountability measures as well as health and safety requirements.
“Accountability is here to stay, which is a good thing,” Cox said Monday. “The requirements under No Child Left Behind and the varying instructional needs of students should still be at the forefront when local districts are making decisions about their class sizes.”
But the state board’s decision is a bold move. To Dyer, this is the worst financial crunch she’s seen in education.
“I think in 1987 salaries had to be decreased midyear, but this is unique because it’s going on year after year,” she said. “It’s coming down to increasing class sizes or getting rid of the arts in elementary schools. It’s time to accept where we are.”