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Dover Post
  • Capital school board votes to request a class-size waiver, approves revised hiring policy

  • The Capital School District's Board of Education voted to request a classroom-size waiver at its monthly meeting on Wednesday. The motion passed 3-1 with one abstention. This vote came two months after the board previously moved not to accept a class-size waiver.
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  • The Capital School District's Board of Education voted to request a classroom-size waiver at its monthly meeting on Wednesday. The motion passed 3-1 with one abstention. This vote came two months after the board previously moved not to accept a class-size waiver.
    Delaware's student-to-teacher ratio law stipulates that classrooms in the state's public schools cannot exceed 22 students for every one teacher in kindergarten through third grade. If classrooms in a district are out of compliance, the district must request a waiver. 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.
    Since the board chose not to request a waiver in November, David Bowman, deputy secretary for the Department of Education, stepped in to work with Capital to bring the schools into compliance.
    When David Vaughan, director of human resources for the Capital School District, did his original calculations for the class-size waiver, he did not factor paraprofessionals who only work a portion of the day into his equation. Under the law, a paraprofessional is calculated in the teacher-to-student ratio as half a teacher. Officials from the Department of Education informed Vaughan that as long as paraprofessionals spend at least two hours in a classroom during core subjects, they can be counted as half a teacher.
    The district originally had 20 classrooms out of compliance; After factoring in the additional paraprofessionals, that number was reduced to 11. Due to the decrease in non-compliant classrooms, the board voted to request a waiver for the remaining 11 classrooms. Board members Phillip Martino Jr., Kay Dietz Sass and Matthew Lindell voted in favor of the waiver, while Sean Christensen voted against it. Brian Lewis abstained.
    Lindell expressed concern that a part-time paraprofessional may not be enough.
    "At the end of the day you still have 23 kids in that class, and when that help leaves after a certain number of hours, it's just magic math," he said.
    Lindell cited a lack of aid from the Department of Education as a reason not to request a waiver back in November. Last year when the board voted to accept a classroom-size waiver, Vaughan 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 Title 14 of the state law, Lindell said. The Department of Education had not responded to that request at that time, according to Vaughan.
    By taking a stand and voting not to request a class-size waiver, Capital made progress, according to Lindell.
    "I felt that we've moved the football down the field on this one," he said. "I think there are definitely legislators paying attention to this."
    Page 2 of 2 - Board member Sean Christensen offered a different perspective on the matter. Picking up the football metaphor, he viewed the district's goal as a defensive play, rather than an offensive maneuver to move the issue forward.
    "You have an offense that moves the football down the field, but there's a defense that keeps it down there," he said. "When defense makes a stand…you put the message out there that this is where we're going to stand and you're going to change the law to help our kids, help our parents and make education better."
    IN OTHER NEWS
    The board approved a resolution that will add several classes at Dover High School and revise some existing classes. Through the resolution, anatomy and physiology will be extended as a full-year course, as opposed to one semester.
    The resolution also allowed the addition of a course in forensic science and biotechnology. Environmental science and natural resources was also added to replace plant and horticulture science, which will be phased out, so that those currently in the program can complete it.

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