NAPLES — Rezoning, portables or both?
That is the decision the Collier County School Board’s operation subcommittee will have to make before the next School Board meeting.
Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute presented the Collier County School Board with an update this past week on the district’s efforts to comply with the class-size amendment.
Concerned about class sizes that were reaching 40 students or more, the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2002 calls for the number of students per classroom to be limited in core classes such as English and math.
To meet the need, the district would have to hire 216 teachers at an estimated salary cost of $14.6 million. The district also may need 239 classrooms. There are enough classrooms available districtwide for the number of teachers needed but there are individual schools that don’t have enough classrooms while other schools have extra classrooms, LaBute said.
So, a decision must be made, she said.
Under the first option, the district can add portables to campuses with a shortage of classrooms and leave classrooms empty in other schools. LaBute told board members the district would need about 58 portables at a cost of $3 million plus electrical costs. The district also would have to use 77 empty classrooms.
The other option is for the district to rezone students to other schools in order to minimize the need for portable classrooms and maximize the use of permanent classrooms. Or, it could do a combination.
Some of the schools that don’t have enough capacity for new teachers include Tommie Barfield, Veterans Memorial, Laurel Oak, Village Oaks, Lake Trafford and Osceola elementary schools and Gulf Coast High School.
LaBute told board members she would like to have a recommendation from the operations subcommittee before the Dec. 10 board meeting. The board will then take the subcommittee’s recommendation and decide whether to rezone, bring in portables or a combination.
If the board chooses to rezone, the district will have a plan for community meetings on the rezonings in January. If the board chooses portables, the district will begin moving and installing the portables in January.
Under the timeline for the class-size amendment’s implementation, the classroom limit must be met in individual classes by 2010-11.
Schools not meeting the requirement face fines.
The state could still amend the class-size legislation, LaBute said, but the district needs to be prepared in case the measure doesn’t get on the 2010 ballot or doesn’t receive 60 percent of the vote required to change it.
For some School Board members, the decision already was weighing on them.
“I think we can fully comply and not disrupt the district by going through unnecessary rezoning,” School Board member Pat Carroll said. “We can install portables for one year until we find out what the Legislature is going to do. I don’t trust that they are going to be able to fund this. They can’t afford it.”
Board member Steve Donovan saw it a different way.
“Maybe we should think about rezoning to fix some problems that should have been taken care of long ago,” he said. “We have one overcrowded school and one school that is not because of how we rezoned the schools the first time.”
The operations subcommittee meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.