2018-09-08 / Front Page

Class size rules mean a new teacher

By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staff Writer

Person County Schools must fund around $55,000 to hire an additional kindergarten teacher at South Elementary School by the end of the month, in order to meet the first phase of the K-3 class size mandate in late October.

An unprojected boost in enrollment this year has caused South to be overallotted, with 29 students joining the school since May, says PCS Chief Human Resources Officer Lori Stacey.

The increase stems from a new dual language program introduced at the school, she says, as well as the phasing out of the School of Choice initiative, which allowed local families to send students to an elementary school other than their base school. Now, district lines are more in place and students are returning to their home schools, creating a shortage of teachers.

According to PCS Chief Financial Officer Julie Masten, a beginning teacher costs around $55,000 plus other additions, such as benefits.

PCS Superintendent Dr. Rodney Peterson brought two options before the board on Tuesday to address the over allotment: pull a teacher from another local school or find a funding source to provide the additional teacher.

The board decided to pursue the latter option, as to avoid disrupting classrooms that are already in place for the new academic year.

According to Stacey, federal funding is the school system’s only option, as there are no more local or state funds for this specific use. Now, PCS must decide between two types of federal funds by the end of September, she says.

First, PCS could use Title I funds, as South is considered a Title I school with high numbers of children from low-income families.

Hiring an additional teacher would maximize these funds for the 2018-19 year, Stacey says, and create a challenge, as Title I funds don’t drop until October or November. Carryover money to pay salaries and buy classroom resources would have to come from PCS’ local fund and be moved back after the federal funds come in, she says.

The second option is to use money from PCS’ fund balance, which is similar to a savings account or rainy day fund.

“That would be an absolute last resort,” Stacey said.

On top of making this decision, she says, PCS must now find an effective, qualified candidate for the teaching position as soon as possible.

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