Sulphur Springs Independent School District is applying to Texas Education Agency requesting a maximum class size waiver for two campuses, where classrooms exceed the 22:1 student-teacher ratio.
The application, which is handled exclusively online this year for the first time, notes Travis Elementary has three and Sulphur Springs Elementary has 11 classrooms with more than 22 students each during an enrollment survey conducted Oct. 10.
Travis, a recognized campus, has three sections of first grade, and each exceeds the 22:1 ratio by one student each. The campus’ three sections of second graders and two sections per grade level of bilingual/English as a second language courses do not exceed the 22:1 ratio, according to SSISD Director of Elementary Education Betty Lawson.
The class size waiver application also notes the re-organization of SSISD elementary campuses this year, which put all third and fourth graders on one campus, Sulphur Springs Elementary. The campus, in its first year as an elementary campus, has yet to receive an accountability rating. Eleven of the 13 third grade classrooms exceed the 22:1 ratio. Each grade level has two additional bilingual/ESL classrooms, but they don’t exceed the 22:1 ratio, Lawson explained.
“So essentially, at Travis we have 23 in each class and 22 is the maximum, is that right?” SSISD Board Vice President Kerry Wright queried during a recent school board meeting.
Lawson, answering in the affirmative, further explained that schools must cite a reason for the request, and only a few reasons are considered acceptable by TEA. Districts can request waivers based on facilities needs, financial hardship, unanticipated growth and need for high qualified staff. The district is requesting the waiver based on financial hardship.
“We have requested an exception. We don’t know that we will be approved, we’ve just requested it. This would help carry us through this year. It could also help us determine funding in years to come,” Lawson explained to trustees during a school board meeting earlier this month.
“What happens if we’re not approved [for the waiver]?” trustee John Prickette queried.
“TEA will come back and help us rewrite it until it is acceptable, then work with us on it,” Lawson said.
Lawson noted that this year’s primary placements did include a school choice option for students living within Bowie Primary’s campus boundary, which may have impacted the primary counts. Requests from parents of students living in Bowie’s campus boundary to transfer their students to another primary campus had to be honored because of Bowie’s status as a Stage One school based on federal accountability ratings.
However, SSISD is requesting the waiver for “financial hardship” during “uncertain” times in school finance.
Instead of adding another class section and teacher for each grade level, the district is providing “additional support” in first and third grade classrooms.
Lawson noted that due to the financial funding situation, more schools across the state are expected to apply for waivers than usual this year.
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