House Bill 13 creating problems with growth for Onslow County Schools


JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - New classroom size requirements under House Bill 13 are threatening art, music and physical education classes for elementary school students in Onslow County.

The bill calls for small classroom sizes for elementary school students. But with the smaller classes comes a a whole new set of issues for school systems like Onslow County Schools, which is seeing a lot of growth in the county. One of the biggest problems is funding should new schools need to be built. That could result in raising taxes for residents.

A meeting with the Onslow County Board of Education and Onslow County commissioners agreed to petition state lawmakers to ease up onthe requirements in House Bill 13.

"The problem with it is that when we reduce the classroom size that means we're gonna have to add additional classrooms, add additional schools, which is going to require additional funding -- and that's the concern I have is to find the funding stream to make this happen," said Robin Knapp, one of the county commissioners.

"We have to find funds somewhere in order to meet those requirements that are placed on us. When you start talking about adding additional classrooms, possibly new schools, that all costs money. Well where are we gonna get the money? Taxation is a possibility."

Knapp said he hopes it doesn't come to that. But it's not the only thing he's worried about.

"What I'm afraid of is when we limit the classrooms like that, then we look at some of the enhancement programs that may go away," Knapp said. "Such as PE, such as art. Things that directly affect a lot of these students and a lot of these students participate in and love. And I'd hate to see that go away."

There is a waiver that allows the school distirct to have larger class sizes in art, music and PE. But that waiver currently doesn't extend to next year, which means those enhancement programs could get cut by 2018 for all ementary school students.

Now the school board is racing to prevent that. The two groups plan to write up a resolution requiring an ease up on the classroom size requirements, hoping to save the probrams that could be cut and preventing the possibility of raising taxes.

"To lose those things would be not only detrimental to the program side and the educational side but it would be detrimental to the development of the students," said Pam Thomas, school board chairman.

"In January, we're planning on meeting with our legislatures, a face-to-face meeting so that we can impress on them the need to either have a waiver in place or to remove that some of the restrictions that are in the law as it is."

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