Waivers for school make-up days and class size give districts relief
MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 20, 2014 – The State Board of Education (SBOE) today approved two resolutions recommended by State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge to give school districts flexibility. One resolution is to give flexibility to school districts to decide whether or not to make up school days when they were closed due to inclement weather. The other resolution removes the class size requirements due to continued budget shortfalls for districts.
Weather and School Days Resolution
State law – O.C.G.A. § 20-2-168(c)(2) – authorizes the State Board of Education to empower local boards of education to depart from the strict interpretation of the terms “school year” and “school day,” when the Governor proclaims a state of emergency or when there is an emergency that causes the continued operation of public schools to be impractical or impossible. Many school districts throughout the state had to close due to inclement weather the weeks of January 27-31 and February 10-14.
“The approval of this resolution will allow local school districts the flexibility to determine if school days missed due to inclement weather will be made up,” said Superintendent Barge. “Each district has a unique set of challenges with regard to restoring the days missed so we wanted to ensure they had the means to do whatever was best for them.”
Class Size Resolution
Local school districts continue to experience financial hardships. The results may mean that a local board of education will not be able to comply with class size maximum requirements. State law – O.C.G.A. § 20-2-244 (h) – authorizes the State Board of Education to allow local school systems to exceed regulatory class size maximums in the event of “financial exigency.”
The resolution adopted today allows an exemption from class size maximum requirements for the 2014-2015 school year only. In addition, local school districts will be required to submit a local board resolution to the Georgia Department of Education if class size maximums will exceed the requirements in current statute and State Board Rule 160-5-1-.08 – Class Size. The local board resolution must be approved at a local board meeting. The purpose of the locally approved resolution is to ensure that all stakeholders are informed about the local school district's decisions regarding increases in class sizes. Local boards of education must continue to meet all federal and state accountability requirements as well as all other requirements within programs that have specific class size stipulations.
“While we don’t like having to ask the board for a waiver of the class size rule, our districts need this flexibility right now so they can continue to operate school each day,” said Superintendent Barge. “If one or two students were to move into some of our schools it would put their classes over the maximum, causing them to hire another teacher that many districts can’t afford. Because a class would then have to be split up, the two classes may be so small that the district would not earn money for either of the teachers. That is just not something we can require of our districts right now with the continued financial hardships many of them are facing. It is important to remember that this is giving districts the flexibility to increase class size if they need to. There is certainly no mandate to increase class size.”
The State Board of Education previously adopted resolutions exempting all statutory and regulatory class size maximums for: the 2010-2011 school year at a called meeting on May 24, 2010, the 2011-2012 school year during the State Board of Education Meeting on February 10, 2011, the 2012-2013 school year during the State Board of Education meeting on February 16, 2012, and for the 2013-2014 school year during the State Board of Education meeting on February 20, 2013.