The Columbia County Board of Education on Tuesday approved a survey for proposed changes to the school calendar and discussed teacher allocation required of Gov. Sonny Perdue's recommendation to reduce class sizes.
The board approved a short survey at a Jan. 10 board meeting, but wanted to add some "tweaking questions" to it. At Tuesday's meeting, the board agreed to delete five added "tweaking questions," because they might confuse the survey results.
"When you do ask more than one question, certainly that dilutes any one response," school Superintendent Tommy Price said after the board agreed to add more questions at the last meeting. " ... The idea was to be a little more sensitive to the public wishes until you captured some information that might give you a better overall understanding of what the (people) want. In other words, your point was that it would have the opposite effect of diluting the vote."
Board member Roxanne Whitaker said she will hold a town hall meeting at Harlem High School on Feb. 25 during which county residents can fill out the survey and ask questions about its content.
The board approved the calendar survey of four questions that will ask Columbia County residents which calendar they prefer and demographics questions including if they have children in Columbia County schools and where their children attend.
The three calendar options for the 2007-08 school year will soon be online for viewing and the survey will soon be available online and in hard copy versions from schools.
The school board hopes to have hard copies of the surveys available at schools and the online version by mid-February. The board plans to collect and count the data from the surveys and have a calendar option for approval at the March 28 board meeting.
The board also heard recommendations from Price regarding the governor's recommendation to reduce class sizes.
The governor's proposal would reduce class sizes for kindergarten through eighth grades. In kindergarten, classes would be reduced from a maximum of 20 to 19 pupils. Grades one through three would go from 23 to 21 pupils. The maximum class size in fourth through eighth grades would be reduced from 32 to 28.
Price said the proposal would greatly increase the need for more teachers and classroom space. He told the board 44 teachers would need to be hired for the 2006-07 school year, 14 for normal growth in the school system and an additional 30 to meet the class-size reduction proposal.
"We'll be driving the budget with these (teacher) allocations," Price said, adding that the average annual teacher salary in Columbia County, excluding benefits, is about $50,000.
Board member Regina Buccafusco said media reports about the governor's proposal make it sound as if school systems would be receiving extra funding for the teacher allocations, but no money has been promised to go along with the proposal.
Price said space for the new teachers also will be a problem because all Columbia County elementary schools except three are at, or close to, capacity.
Price said the school system is looking into purchasing more portable classrooms, but he is unsure of exactly how many will be needed. He also proposed more unconventional ideas to better use existing space, such as floating teachers from school to school.
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