More pupils, less funds spell overcrowding Problem is worst at lower levels

November 12, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Kindergarten and elementary science and social studies classes are among those hit hard by overcrowding this fall as the county schools struggle with budget cuts while welcoming 1,300 new students.

A report on class sizes will go to the school board at its meeting today.

Last year, kindergarten classes at six schools exceeded the limit of 22 pupils for each teacher. This year 10 schools face that situation, with classes receiving three to seven additional students, school officials say.

Elementary schools are undergoing a "pretty explosive growth," said Edward E. Alexander, instructional director of elementary schools.

He attributed the larger class sizes to an increase in the number of students and a 50 percent reduction in the funding for hiring additional teachers, if needed, once classes start.

Mr. Alexander said that although he was allowed to hire five additional teachers, he really needed 11.

"The County Council and school board have said, 'Read our lips: We don't have the money to hire additional staff,' " Mr. Alexander said. "We'll just have to live with larger class sizes."

School officials say the maximum number of pupils for each teacher should be 25-to-1 in grades one through five, 20.5-to-1 in middle schools, and 23.5-to-1 in high schools.

Average class sizes in grades one through 12 generally fall within the guidelines, according to the reports.

But a report by Superintendent Michael E. Hickey shows that the number of elementary social studies classes with 30 to 34 students has increased nearly 300 percent. The number of science classes with up to 34 students has increased 250 percent over last year.

The reports also noted that more middle school students are competing for fewer teachers in physical education, art, music, home economics, industrial arts and health. Thirteen classes have as many as 36 to 40 students; last year, only three classes were in that category.

Average class sizes increased in five high schools, and seven of nine curriculum areas showed an increase in class size.

Class sizes in county high schools increased to an average of 24 students per class, compared with 23.5 last year.

The county schools enrolled 32,756 students as of Sept. 30.

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