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Jul 16, 2014 7:54 PM by Kari Beal

Class size reduced at J.W. Faulk, but some say that's not enough

Tuesday night, the Lafayette Parish School Board voted to cut positions and reduce teacher to student ratios at J.W. Faulk Elementary, which is the only F graded school in the district.

More than 100 positions in the school system will be eliminated. This includes teachers, administrators and counselors. The board rejected proposals to cut 17 social workers and instructional strategists.

During the meeting, the board established teacher to student ratios. The average ratios from the 2013-2014 school year were 21:1 in the parish. Ratios were capped at 23:1 for kindergarten to third grade, 25:1 for fourth grade and 28:1 for fifth grade to 12th grade.

J.W. Faulk Elementary class sizes were capped at 17:1. This puts the school system in line with a consent order issued at the close of the school system's federal desegregation case in 2006.

In the district's modification plan to address the consent order, teacher to student ratios at "low performing" schools must be 15:1 and capped at 18 for "at risk" schools.

"I think 17, which is one below the 18 cap is acceptable," Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Babineaux said.

Board members say there's no clear definition on what is "low performing" compared to "at risk." But Greg Davis said in his interpretation of the decree, he believes all D and F schools are "low performing."

"We believe they are not in compliance because it is not only about J.W. Faulk, It's also about all of the D schools in our parish. It's my understanding that those D schools will not have that 15:1 ratio and will not even have a 17:1 ratio," Davis said.

There are a total of 10 "D" rated schools in the district. J.W. Faulk plans to hire seven teachers to meet the needed class size ratio, at a cost of about $500,000. Babineaux said it would be impossible to reduce the teacher ratio for all the D schools as well.

"I don't think blaming class size is going to get us very far," Babineaux said.

Babineaux adds that he understands the importance of keeping the classroom sizes low, but he said there should also be a focus on support groups in and outside the classroom that are low or no cost.

"We have the Boys and Girls Club, after school tutorials, and UL programs," Babineaux said.

Davis said he worries about the future of D schools if they're left as is.

"It's not just from a decree point of view but from a performance point of view," David said

The board will hold its next budget meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to review the cuts they've made to the budget and to see exactly how much they've saved. Another meeting will be held on July 24 to take up appeals to department-level budget cuts.

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