FORT WALTON BEACH — Snapshots taken last month to determine whether classrooms in local school districts met strict state size requirements has produced a mixed bag.
Okaloosa County Schools met the requirements. Walton County Schools likely did, but a few data errors have delayed the final results. Santa Rosa County Schools once again likely did not.
“You never know when there’s going to be one little glitch,” Okaloosa County Superintendent of School Alexis Tibbetts said. “(But) every year this has gotten easier.”
Since 2010-11, school districts in Florida have been statutorily required to cap the number of students in each core curriculum class at each school.
The voter-approved mandate has been an uphill battle from the start. It has cost school districts millions of dollars to build new classrooms, hire additional staff and divide classes to comply.
Lawmakers tried to modify the statute in 2010, but it failed at the polls.
“It really is something that the principal starts studying as soon as they start getting in numbers for the next August,” Tibbetts said.
In Walton County, a similar scenario has played out year after year. Superintendent Carlene Anderson said she knows her district technically met the requirements, but was waiting for state approval on a few data issues that the district had to correct.
“I don’t like sitting in this position because we’ve been here before,” Anderson said. “We know we physically made it. I just need the data to be processed (by the state) that shows it.”
Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said he hasn’t heard back from the state, but he knows his district did not meet the requirements.
“We make every effort (and) it is a high priority for us … but we think that the academic environment is a higher priority,” Wyrosdick said.
It’s not the first time Santa Rosa has opted to stop moving students after about a month of classes. It also missed the class-size limit last year after meeting the requirements in 2010-11.
This year, the decision not to divide classrooms and hire more staff also came down to money.
“We are as strapped as can be,” Wyrosdick said. “The monies that they (the state) give for class size are just not enough.”
According to Tibbetts and Anderson, they’ve kept shuffling students, hiring teachers and rearranging budgets until the last minute for one simple reason: The law dictates it.
“You just have to make a decision that it’s important and you’re going to get there,” Tibbetts said. “… It’s the right thing to do.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.