No funding for $174M plan to cut classroom trailers in Prince William

Trailers at Potomac View Elementary School.

Having smaller class sizes provides more time for teachers to focus on students, but as the county has increased in population, the school division has struggled to keep up with growth. 

School Board Chairman Babur Lateef, re-elected on Nov. 5, said tackling the division’s large class sizes will be a priority for the new school board. While school board elections are nonpartisan, the local parties back a slate of candidates. And county voters added two Democrats to the board, giving them a 7-1 majority in January. 

“We need to catch up with growth that’s already happened in Prince William, that’s something we heard from voters, regardless of who they voted for,” Lateef said. 

COUNTING STUDENTS

Average class sizes throughout Prince William County schools vary widely. The average class size for elementary schools is 22.97 students per teacher, according to 2018 data. For middle schools, the average is 17.71, and the average is 19.32 at the county’s high schools.

Across more than 60 elementary schools, students experienced average class sizes anywhere from 18.84 students per class to 27.67 students per class. In first through third grades, Virginia’s standards of quality requires divisions have ratios of no more than 24 students per class and states that no single class can have more than 30 students.

Average Class Size in Prince William County

See a complete list of average class sizes at Prince William County schools.

Virginia requires school divisions to report the average class size each year in January. The average class size is the number of students compared to the number of full-time teachers, excluding resource teachers, such as elementary art teacher, elementary music teacher, elementary PE teacher, elementary reading teacher, gifted education teacher, ESOL teacher and other resource teachers. 

In the county’s middle schools, students saw anywhere from 12.1 to 20.1 students per teacher on average in 2018.  Virginia requires an average class size that cannot exceed 25 students per teacher and no single class can have more than 35 students in grades 4th-6th.

In the county’s high schools, students saw average class sizes anywhere from 16.9 to 21.2 students for every teacher last year.  

COUNTING TRAILERS

Currently, the county uses 183 trailers as classrooms. Lateef said he thinks the recently elected county supervisors are also committed to reducing average class sizes.

“The best way to reduce class size is to add schools and additions,” he said. 

In May, a joint committee on school construction — that has three county supervisors and three school board members — voted 3-1 to recommend the school board incorporate the $174.1 million plan to reduce classroom trailers, starting in fiscal year 2021. The vote means the county and school division are set to work together to consider how to add the eight-year plan to the school division’s 10-year capital improvement plan and to identify funding. The plan includes additions to elementary and middle schools and two new elementary schools.

“Those are the things we need to do in the eastern end where it’s most crowded,” Lateef said about the trailer reduction plan. 

Lateef said addressing overcrowding in the division won’t be an overnight fix. 

“I think we have political will that we didn’t have before,” he said. 

With a new board of county supervisors, Lateef said he thinks the new board will be ready to work with the school board to determine how to fund school construction projects. 

“Exactly how, I’m not sure, but I know there is now momentum to address these long term issues,” Lateef said. “The community, by voting for us, have heard us and agreed with us.” 

Other issues Lateef said are priorities include increasing teacher and staff pay, improving the division’s student to counselor ratio and improving curriculum. Soon the school board will work on its five-year plan, Lateef said. 

“I’d like to meet with stakeholders around the county, students, parents, teachers, school administration, folks who are interested in smart growth; all of those folks we’d like to talk to,” Lateef said. 

COUNTING ON SUPPORT

In addition to flipping control from Republicans on the board of county supervisors, Democrats also flipped the majority in the Virginia General Assembly. Lateef thinks that will mean more funding for school divisions around Virginia. 

“With the General Assembly flipping, I think you’ll see more priority of higher education and K-12,” he said. 

Lateef said he wants to continue to improve the division so people will seek out the county’s schools. 

“I’d like to make Prince William County Schools the destination school system,” he said. “I’d like people to come and live in Prince William County, because they believe our schools are the best.” 

Lateef said he’s fascinated by teachers around the division who are doing great and innovative things. 

“I just want to take what’s working and implement it across the division,” he said.


Virginia requires school divisions to report the average class size each year in January. The average class size is the number of students compared to the number of full-time teachers, excluding resource teachers, such as elementary art teacher, elementary music teacher, elementary PE teacher, elementary reading teacher, gifted education teacher, ESOL teacher and other resource teachers. 

 

(9) comments

tman

Before the snowflakes get here complaining about the blue wave and too much school funding, be aware that Signal Hill Elementary just had to close a classroom and redistribute students, and fire one of only two custodians just to make budget this year.

InsideCommenter

Exactly, those folks are clueless about the issues facing our county.

insidebugging

How in the heck do they plan on cutting classroom size while turning Prince William into a sanctuary county? The schools are about to be overflowing with thousands of illegals and pack with MS-13.

timt

Once again, like clockwork, buggy spouts his baseless fear-mongering conservative nonsense. [scared][scared][scared][scared][scared][scared][scared]

insidebugging

I would suggest you read the article in the Washington Post that has the new BOCS claiming they are going to pack the regional jail board with people who can overrule Sheriff Hill and stop turning over prisoners to ICE. It’s like timt is always rooting for the destruction of the county? Like she wants to see our neighborhoods fail and turn into West Baltimore. But at least I’ll get to see timt look like an idiot when we do.

lskraus87

Where do I start? I've been teaching in PWCS for quite some time now. Those class size numbers are based on skewed data. They are based on the number of students in the building when compared to the average number of adults in the building. If we are going to use data to make informed decisions, it should be accurate data. I have always had between 140-150 students a year when teaching 8th grade Language Arts. The other adults in the building have their own jobs to do, and it's not to sit around in my classroom, so they shouldn't be counted in the ratios. I say we give them some REAL data to look at!

toomanypeople

Gosh. How will this be paid for? Let me guess. More bonds & higher taxes for EVERYBODY. What about implementing a TUITION policy? That probably caused some heads to explode.

Soily

Prince William County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, yet at the same time, its schools are dominated by students eligible for government lunches or assisted lunches. This doesn't seem to make sense. But, I think many of the liberal elitists in the county, most who don't have kids in schools, have lots of cheap labor available to do their dirty work (cleaning toilets and mowing lawns). The cheap labor has lots of kids. If taxpayers help take care of their worker's kids, then elitists have more time to complain about how racist Trump is, and they spread the costs among everybody who pays property taxes.

InsideCommenter

Your rabid hatred of Latino folks is showing again. Even among folks in Woodbridge and the Eastern end of the county salaries are higher because of the federal government, and our military bases around here, in the west we have a lot of wealthy families attending schools. I wonder how you'd consider are crisis with overcrowding in schools would be if this kids weren't latino.

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