Throw-away classes

Published: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 12:20 a.m.

In her "state of the schools" guest column, published on Saturday, Superintendent Mary Chambers assures us that the district has met its first year class-size reduction goals. And we certainly hope she's right.

Because the Department of Education says this school district fell short of meeting the two-student-per-classroom reduction in the early grades. And if Chambers can't convince DOE that their calculations are wrong, the penalty for non-compliance is going to be substantial. The district will have to take $948,889 - money that could be used for teacher salaries and other operating expenses - and transfer it into a capital account, to be one day used to build or rent new classrooms.

If the district does end up having to pay that penalty, then the School Board is going to look decidedly foolish for its decision to shut down a perfectly good elementary school - Prairie View - just because it's in the "wrong" part of town - which is to say, east Gainesville.

Certainly, from the taxpayers' point of view, it seems cheaper to spend a little money on buses than a lot of money building a new school in the "right" part of town.

Of course, even if Chambers turns out to be right and the DOE turns out to be wrong, the board's decision to use Prairie View from something (as yet undefined) other than an elementary school may still turn out to be myopic. That's because class sizes will have to be reduced still more in the coming years under the state constitutional mandate. And each year that school officials have to scramble to create smaller elementary classes, the mothballing of Prairie View will seem more and more questionable.

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