Published: Oct 18, 2012 05:27 PM
Modified: Oct 18, 2012 05:28 PM
CHAPEL HILL - School leaders are working to soothe overcrowding at elementary schools with a recent decision to hire new teaching assistants for packed classrooms.
Mulling a staff recommended $125,000 for new TAs for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members instead voted 7-0 to spend up to $215,000 to give even more teachers relief in classrooms of 29 students or more.
“We’re deficit spending, and at above what we’ve budgeted,” board member Mike Kelley said. “I think for this, this is a really good use of our fund balance because it’s being used in the classroom to help students.”
“Every dollar we spend here is a dollar we don’t have available to us next year,” James Barrett said. “I support the motion, because we need to do something, and this is reasonable.”New school named
District schools are housing classrooms in mobile outbuildings to deal with overcapacity.
A new elementary school being built between Caldwell and McMasters streets in the Northside neighborhood will absorb some overcapacity. The board voted 6-1 at its Oct. 11 meeting to name that school Northside Elementary.
The additional spending for assistants honored requests from parents at Estes Hills and Scroggs elementary schools, who petitioned the board with concerns about classroom overcrowding
“Our teachers have informed us that the current student levels are creating a much bigger challenge than in previous years with fewer students,” a letter from the Estes Hills School Improvement Team stated.
In response, board members released an additional $93,000 beyond the staff’s recommendation to hire a total of 14 assistants. This would add a teacher’s assistant for every two fourth- or fifth-grade classroom with 29 students or more, with TAs splitting time between classrooms as needed.One-year fix
The hires will be a one-year fix, and board members expressed hopes that Northside’s opening will ease the problem next year. Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said the issue is just as likely to come up again. Current enrollment in elementary schools is 5,526, which is 63 more students than at about this time last year.
Northside Elementary, on the site of the former all-black Lincoln High School, is being built to a capacity of 585 students. Contractors have installed structural steel framing, laid concrete and begun installing the roof trusses. The project is on schedule to be completed in July of 2013 and to open at the beginning of the next school year.
Kelley, the only member who voted against the Northside name, said he did so not because he disliked like the name, but because he believed the board was not following its rules for community input.