LAS VEGAS -- Clark County school children are spending their school days surrounded by more of their classmates than ever before. The I-Team has learned class sizes are on the rise in every grade level despite a state law that requires fewer students in elementary school classrooms.
At Nate Mack Elementary School, there are 36 students in Ms. Rozgay-Miller's fourth grade class. There used to 37.
"It's challenging with 36," Rozgay-Miller said.
The classroom, which is decorated in a Harry Potter theme, has the dubious distinction as being the largest in the school. Unlike the first through third grades, fourth grade has no class-size restrictions.
"I know that these students would do better if there were fewer of them or more of me to go around, and that is not a reality right now," Rozgay-Miller said.
It's not the reality in the lower grades either. There is a state law that requires a student-teacher ratio of 18-to-one in the first and second grades and 21-to-one in the third grade. The mandates are meant to ensure every child learns the basics during their first years in school.
"Ideally, we would love to be in compliance with the law," said Pat Skorkowsky, CCSD deputy superintendent. "The content and the intent of the law was good but making sure that it can be implemented, it's just like other unfunded mandates, we don't necessarily get the funding levels we need with every mandate."
The state will spend more than $144 million this year to reduce class sizes. Rather than lobby lawmakers for more money to reduce the large class sizes, the district plans to push a new formula to increase funding by adding resources for English language learners, low income students and those with special needs.
"We would love for the funding formula to be revisited to account for individual students needs," Skorkowsky said. She adds it takes more money to educate English language learners and students who live in poverty.
It isn't yet clear how a new formula, if approved, would impact class sizes district-wide.
"This is a year when it's really impacted our school more than ever before," said Nancy Heavey, principal of Nate Mack Elementary School. "I like that they want to look at it again and provide some extra support for kids that need extra resources, think that's a great step in the right direction but I don't want it to be at the expense of larger sizes.
Back at Hogwarts, Rozgay-Miller is keeping her students focused on their research project exploring native Nevada tribes. She said she wishes there was more of her to go around or fewer students as she prepares them for moving to the next grade.
"We're trying to get them there," she said. "I would like to say yes, they'll be ready by exit. I am cautious about that in a sense that we can do better if we have fewer students."
The district cut 1,000 teaching positions last year when it lost an arbitration with the teacher's union. That same battle is underway again right now the outcome will likely impact class sizes. A decision by the arbitrator considering the dispute between the district and the teacher's union is expected in January.