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Elementary jobs could be lost

February 13, 2002

Elementary jobs could be lost



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Washington County public schools could lose 23 full-time and one part-time elementary teaching positions at the end of the school year if the grants that fund those positions are allowed to expire, school officials said Tuesday.

John Festerman, director of elementary education, said those teachers could apply for vacancies that are anticipated through retirements or they could transfer to the secondary level if they have the qualifications.

As a result of the possible job eliminations, the School Board expects class size to increase at the elementary level by an average of two students per class. The average elementary class size now is about 21 students.

Festerman said the smaller elementary schools might see a greater class size increase because there are fewer classes to absorb the additional students than in larger schools.

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Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the school system would have to come up with $1.1 million to retain 23.5 positions if the federal or state governments do not reauthorize the grants.

"Knowing whether we're going to have these funds or not is definitely a deciding factor," Morgan said.

Festerman said he has told school principals to be prepared for staff reductions.

Currently, 19.5 teaching positions are funded through state and federal class size reduction grants. Sixteen of the county's elementary schools have teachers funded through those grants in kindergarten through third grades.

Four of the 23.5 positions are full-time and funded through the federal Goals 2000 grant, which also is expiring, Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said.

School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said school systems throughout Maryland face similar problems as a result of the grant expiring.

"This is not just critical or unique to Washington County," Hardin said. "This is statewide."

The class size reduction program began under President Clinton in 1999 to help schools improve student achievement by hiring highly qualified teachers and by reducing class size. The goal was to get class size down in grades one through three to 18 per class.

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