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Dover Post
  • Capital school board votes ‘no’ to requesting class-size waiver

  • The Capital School District Board of Education voted against requesting a classroom-size waiver for its 20 schools that are not in compliance with the state’s student/instructor ratio law. The law stipulates classrooms in Delaware public schools cannot exceed 22 students for every one teacher in kindergarten through third grade.
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  • The Capital School District Board of Education voted against requesting a classroom-size waiver for its 20 schools that are not in compliance with the state’s student/instructor ratio law. The law stipulates classrooms in Delaware public schools cannot exceed 22 students for every one teacher in kindergarten through third grade.
    None of the district’s classes that are out of compliance, however, exceed 25 students, according to school district officials. Booker T. Washington Elementary was the only elementary school within the district to which all classrooms are compliant.
    School districts are permitted by the Delaware Department of Education to request a waiver for those classrooms, as long as they advertise the overages in the newspaper and post notices at the affected schools. Last year, Capital’s school board voted to accept a classroom-size waiver, but during Wednesday night’s regular meeting, the current board voted 3-0 with one abstention from board vice president Brian Lewis to not request a waiver. Board member Kay Dietz-Sass was absent from the meeting.
    The school board looked into the potential repercussion of rejecting the waiver prior to Wednesday night’s vote, said Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas, who spoke with the board’s lawyer, Dave Williams, to discuss potential legal ramifications of the board rejecting the waiver.
    “His observation was…within the law it didn’t specify any enforcement, or whether there would be DOE repercussions for districts who are not meeting class size and did not take the waiver.”
    Williams stated in correspondence with the district, which Board of Education president Matthew Lindell read aloud for public record, that the state’s education department would publish on its website which Capital schools are not in compliance.
    “We would basically be put on a list as non-compliant,” Lindell said. “There is no enforcement mechanism or penalty specifically listed in the law that would force us to address [ that non-compliance] in particular.”
    Rejecting a class-size waiver doesn’t so much result in a punishment as it does in a partnership, according to Alison May, public information officer for the Delaware Department of Education. For example, the Board of Education in the Red Clay School District voted reject its classroom-size waiver last week, which will result in the Department of Education working with the Red Clay school board to bring them up to compliance, May said.
    “[Capital is] expected to be compliant with the law,” she said.
    Lindell made the recommendation that the board vote to not accept a classroom-size waiver. Last year when the board voted to accept a classroom-size waiver, David Vaughan, director of human resources for the Capital School District, was required to report class size overages to the Department of Education. In the comment box on that website, Vaughan requested that the department provide technical assistance to help the district bring their class sizes into compliance, as is outlined in Delaware Law subsection 1705A, Part B of Title 14, Lindell said. The Department of Education has not responded to that request, according to Vaughan.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The Department of Education has failed in its duty to provide us with the information we requested under the law,” Lindell said. “I don’t feel comfortable making a decision on a waiver without having all the information that we requested in front of us.”
    When May was informed by the Dover Post that Capital had made that request, she said it was the first she was hearing of it.
    “The Department of Education works closely with the district on a daily, weekly and year-round basis providing the support and resources they need,” May said. “We have not heard a complaint from the district that they have not received the resources or support they need.”
    Though the law does allude to technical assistance, it is unclear exactly what the Department of Education could do, Vaughan said. In order to bring just the Capital School District up to compliance the Department of Education would have to provide at least 20 paraprofessionals, Vaughan added.
    “The only way they could provide assistance would be to provide assistance to the whole state of Delaware,” he said.
    After rejecting the classroom-size waiver, the board voted 4-0 to have Thomas send a letter to the Department of Education requesting the assistance they should provide and point out the fact that Capital requested assistance previously.
    “[I suggest] we request that they provide that service to us and then we will address the issue of the classroom-size waiver,” Lindell said.
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