IW sees student population boom at high schools

Published 12:55 pm Saturday, September 16, 2017

Isle of Wight County’s school board has determined it will need to hire seven additional teachers to keep class sizes manageable, having encountered an unanticipated population boom at both of the division’s high schools this year. Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton told the board during his presentation of the division’s average daily membership on Thursday evening that Windsor’s student population has increased by at least 37 since the first day of classes, and Smithfield by over 100.

As a result, the board plans to request that the county’s Board of Supervisors approve a transfer of $68,680 from the division’s administration, attendance and health budget to its instruction budget, and to re-appropriate approximately $243,000 in unspent funds from the previous school year back to the division. The motion to make the request passed unanimously and will be presented to the supervisors at their next meeting on Sept. 21.

Thornton said that, since the population surge, most high school classes now have an average size of 30 or more students.

“Spanish I and II, those numbers are through the roof,” he said. “PE teachers have 40 in a class. We looked at Windsor High School, they had 24 more students at the ninth grade level.

“That’s a burden on teachers, 30 or more in each class all day long. The stress increases, and not only are they going to feel the burnout, the students are going to feel the burnout.”

Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of gifted services, community and media relations, explained that the division is not requesting any additional funds beyond what was allocated last year, but that because the schools are funded categorically, the division needs to request the supervisors’ permission to move funds from one budget category to another.

The division is hoping the funds, plus the additional money the division expects to receive from the state after Richmond is made aware of the division’s growth, will cover the cost of hiring one additional English teacher, one social studies teacher, one Spanish teacher, one physical education teacher, one earth sciences teacher and two math teachers, all for Smithfield High School. This is assuming an average salary of $68,680 per teacher with an average of 15 years experience. As of yet, no new faculty hires have been approved for Windsor.In the meantime, division staff is working to try and identify where the new students have come from and in what areas of the county they are concentrated. Briggs said that based on the division’s preliminary information, most of the increases are due to transfers from outside the county, who relocated to Isle of Wight.

In other business, the board members approved its “Bring Your Own Device” policy. This creates a system of green, yellow and red zones for governing use of cell phones and other non-division-issued devices in county schools. All elementary schools will be designated as red zones for grades 1-3, which means cell phones and devices aren’t permitted. In grades 4-6, elementary schools will be deemed yellow zones, meaning device use will be at a teacher’s discretion. At the middle school level, all classrooms will be yellow zones and all other areas red. At the high school level, cafeterias, common areas and hallways would be green zones, which means students may use their devices without permission. Classrooms would be yellow and bathrooms would remain red.