Class sizes in area are in line with state law


Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 11:30 p.m.

For the second straight year, the Alachua County school district is complying with Florida's class-size reduction rules, state figures show.

"Last year, it was brand new for us," said Sandy Hollinger, deputy superintendent for Alachua County schools. "But this year we had a better handle on the staffing of the schools and how to report it."

A 2-year-old state law requires public schools to have until 2010 to lower core class sizes to 18 students in pre-kindergarten to third grade, 22 students in fourth to eighth grade and 25 students in high school.

Parents who observe class sizes of 30 or more students at their child's middle or high school should note the law's rules.

The class-size law is being phased in to give school districts more time to comply. This year, the state is calculating the class sizes based on a district average at each of the three grade groupings.

For example, if a seventh-grade class has 32 students, the district still would be complying if any other middle school class has 12 students - for an average of 22 students.

The broad districtwide approach to meeting Florida's class-size mandate will be allowed for one more year.

In fall 2006, a classroom average is calculated for each school. Beginning fall 2008, schools must have the right number - or fewer - of students in each classroom.

If the 2006 rules were applied to this year, 17 of 45 Alachua County schools would be exceeding the maximum class sizes allowed.

Compliance by 2006 is going to require some changes.

"The easiest thing to say is, 'You're going to need more teachers,' " Hollinger said. "But you're also going to need more room and additional monies."

Districts that don't follow the class-size rules face small financial penalties.

This year, 16 of Florida's 67 school districts face fines totaling $9.2 million.

The North Central Florida school districts that have not met this year's rules are Gilchrist, Marion, Putnam and Suwannee counties.

Douane D. James can be reached at (352) 374-5087 or jamesd@gvillesun.com.

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