Schools in Wake County are among hundreds across the state preparing to meet a legislative mandate to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. The Wake County school district is faced with making that reduction while expecting the same steady student growth it has seen in the past decade.
In its first draft of its enrollment plan for the 2018 school year, Wake school district officials are opening four new schools, including two elementaries. Due to the mandate, those new schools will have to take in fewer students than originally planned.
All North Carolina school districts must reduce their average class sizes for lower grades by 2 to 4 students next year, depending on the grade. That's after reducing them by one student this year. Wake County Schools has so far largely met the class size reductions by putting classes in nontraditional classroom spaces.
Wake County Schools is also considering a recommendation to institute a standard formula for enrollment caps at schools that have reached capacity. The district already has caps for some schools, which apply to new families moving into the district. The new formula would reduce school-to-school variation in how caps are calculated.
"Based on recent changes in our capacity methodology, and with the class size legislation now playing a part in this, we believe now what was something that used to have a lot of variables, based on the school, what we are proposing now is a formula," said Wake County Schools' assistant superintendent for facilities Joe Desormeaux.
Two elementary schools in Wake County could have their caps lowered and eight others could have a new cap established for future incoming students.
Lindsay Mahaffey is a board member who represents one of the schools that may be capped.
“You move in, and you expect to go to a certain school, you enroll and then, there's a little bit of anxiety for parents when they hear that there's a cap,” Mahaffey said. “In the event that we hit that number, we may have to use an overflow school that has seats available.”
The board will vote on the cap recommendations at its October meeting and approve its final enrollment plan in November.