Class-size moves up to districts
Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:29 a.m.
CORAL GABLES - Florida's 67 school districts face their own individual challenges in adapting to an amendment ordering reduced class sizes, a top education department official said Tuesday.
FYI: CLASS SIZE
John Winn, the state's deputy education commissioner, told the State Board of Education that he's received reports from the state's school districts on how many classrooms they currently use and has asked for data on the student capacity for each classroom. The board met at the University of Miami to name its chairman and discuss the class size and universal pre-kindergarten amendments approved in November by voters.
The classroom data will be used to give the school districts the flexibility they need to implement the class size amendment, Winn said.
"Every school district is in its own unique position. There's not one cookie-cutter approach to achieving the goals of the class-size amendment," Winn said.
Amendment 9 was added to the Florida Constitution in November. By 2010, no classroom can have more than 18 students through third grade, 22 students in grades four through eight and 25 students in grades nine through 12.
The state budget unveiled by Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday allocates $628 million in operating costs for the measure and another $2.44 billion for facilities, such as more classrooms.
"If we're about to go about a $2.4 billion school construction issue, its important to know how much capacity is available on a district-by-district basis," Winn said. "The goal is to ... identify how many classrooms are available and how they can be utilized before we construct new classrooms."
Also Tuesday, the board of education named Phil Handy as its chairman and Miami educator T. Willard Fair as vice chairman.
Handy, a Winter Park businessman, was head of the task force responsible for the legislation that created the new state Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 11 public universities.
"This state and this board .... is in the most unique position in terms of educational reform in the world," Handy said. "The opportunity here in Florida to substantively and meaningfully improve education is available to us."
Handy failed to win Senate confirmation last year for the position and again will require approval from the upper chamber to stay in the job. If approved, Handy would serve a two-year term.
Fair, who is black, was described by board member Charles P. Garcia as an influential educator who provides needed diversity to the board.
Fair has served on the board of trustees for Miami-Dade Community College and Florida International University's foundation.
The board briefly discussed the universal pre-kindergarten amendment, which does not have to be put in effect until 2005.
The board asked that Education Commissioner Jim Horne submit a report at its February meeting that would present the measure's key funding and governance issues and allow the board to present implementation recommendations to the Legislature.
Also approved Tuesday were ways to accommodate students with disabilities who take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Currently, disabled students receive enlarged or braille versions of the test, depending on the disability.
The new accommodations include masking a portion of the test to direct attention to uncovered items, increasing spacing between test items and placing fewer items on each page. Others include providing the student with a copy of directions and using positioning tools, such as reading stands.
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