VALDOSTA -- One local school board is asking the Georgia Legislature to delay the implementation of the class size reduction mandate one more year.

Members of the Valdosta Board of Education unanimously approved the passage of a resolution addressing this matter earlier in the week. The action was taken at the request of the Georgia School Boards Association.

"All of you are aware of the continued fiscal restraints in this year's state budget," said Jeannie M. "Sis" Henry, association executive director, in a memorandum to superintendents and board chairs statewide. "We are anticipating a 2.5 percent cut this current school year as well as a potential 5 percent cut next year. One of the options to assist local school systems in facing these dramatic cuts is to continue the delay in implementing class size reduction."

The association asked each school board in Georgia to pass a resolution asking the legislature to delay the implementation one more year.

Sam Allen, superintendent of the Valdosta City School System, said such a delay will not affect class sizes locally. The system already operates at or below proposed maximum class size mandates for the 2004-05 school year.

"We added teachers four or five years ago in an effort to get our class sizes down," he said. "We passed the resolution to support those school systems that may not be so fortunate."

Allen said the class size mandates were put in place before the Sept. 11 tragedies and subsequent economic downturn. At that time, he said lawmakers were confident the funds necessary to put these mandates into action would be readily available.

"Reducing class sizes requires the addition of teachers," Allen added. "That's hard to do with the budget cuts. Delaying things will give the economy another year to turn around."

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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