Holmes County school officials say class size requirement too costly

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Bonifay-- Tuesday, the Florida Department of Education released documents outlining how school districts across the state are complying with the newly implemented class size requirements. Overall, the news is good for districts in our viewing area but there are a few trouble spots. Holmes County has the most classrooms not in compliance with 67 classes considered overcrowded.

Holmes School District officials say they just don't have the thousands of dollars it would take to meet the state requirements.

"More money will take care of all our problems. We'll have the teachers in place and the classrooms," said Facilities Administrator, Larry Zorn.

Zorn's been tasked with bringing Holmes School District into compliance with the state's class size requirements. And the task has been anything but easy.

"We're not too happy about it. It's going to be very detrimental to the school as far as funds. We just don't have the financial money right now to accommodate all this," said Zorn.

The state law requires K-3rd grade classes to have no more than 18 students to each teacher. 4th through 8th grades can have no more than 22 students and high school classes can't have more than 25.

School district officials were notified about their status Tuesday and in Holmes County's 7 schools, 67 classrooms are considered overcrowded.

"If we have 19 students in one class, we would have to hire a whole new teaching unit for the class plus have to have a room to put them in which would cost us around 40,000 dollars for the 1 student. Economically, we just can't afford to do that," said Zorn.

Zorn says it’s been a huge financial burden. The district is already facing $51,000 in fines because they are not in compliance and he says it will take another 4 to 500,000 dollars to bring the district up to code.

"We depend on state and federal funds to keep us afloat and the only way that we can do it is to get more money in from the state to help accommodate us on this,” said Zorn.

Even the smallest changes to bring schools into compliance are costing an arm and leg. It cost $16,000 to move a portable from one side of the street to the other at Bonifay Elementary.

"We already had some portables on campus but we had to move them so we can put some students in those classrooms," said Principal of Bonifay Elementary, Rodd Jones.

Zorn says they are working towards putting another plan in place. School district's that are not meeting the requirements have until February 15th to submit a compliance plan showing how they plan to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio.

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