Many Lafayette Parish classrooms will have one additional student in them next year.
The school board voted 6-3 Wednesday to increase the student/teacher ratio by one student in schools that received a grade of A, B or C from the state last year. The move will save the district close to $4 million.
Under the new ratios, there will be 24 students per class in kindergarten, first, second and third grades; 26 students per class in fourth grade and 29 students per class in fifth through 12th grades, according to board documents.
Because of resignations and retirements, officials do not expect to lay off any teachers. However, some will likely be transferred to different sites because of the new numbers.
Schools that received a D or F grade last year will not be subject to the new ratios. Those schools are Alice Boucher Elementary, Carencro Heights Elementary, Carencro High, Duson Elementary, Evangeline Elementary, J.W Faulk Elementary, Lafayette Middle, S.J. Montgomery Elementary, Northside High, Ossun Elementary and Westside Elementary.
The vote was the first step in closing the district’s $15 million deficit. Many board members said they hope officials will continue looking for other ways to save money that have less of a direct impact on classrooms.
“We have the power to back off of it,” board member Britt Latiolais said of the increase. “It’s not an easy decision. It’s not one I want to make. It’s one I have to make. We have the power to back off if the money is found, and that is the first place I will support — going back into the classroom and making them smaller.”
L.J. Alleman Principal Kathy Aloisio said she surveyed the district’s principals. Of the 41 principals, 35 said they would agree to increasing the ratios for the higher-rated schools, she said.
“There’s not one principal that wants to increase the pupil-teacher ratio by one, but we all understand that we need to do our part,” Aloisio said. “I don’t think we’re going to be losing teachers. They might be shifted. I don’t think they’re going to be out and not have jobs.”
However, others said the district should look for other ways to save money before touching the classrooms.
“I can’t support it. I still think there are other avenues we can exhaust,” board member Tehmi Chassion said. “The central office staff — I know you guys do a hard job, but we’re affecting the classroom first.”
Board Vice President Dawn Morris agreed, saying the decision was premature and that not enough work had been done to evaluate central office costs.
Kathy Castille, whose children attend Milton Elementary/Middle, said she felt adding one student to classrooms would be detrimental to students.
“How is a teacher supposed to even notice if there’s a problem with our children, supposed to teach them even?” Castille said. “They are not going to necessarily notice if there’s a problem with these children learning. Does this have to start with the kids?”
Board President Tommy Angelle, Morris and Chassion voted against the increase.