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How many classrooms? 2,602, new data say

Only a third of the state's school districts need more classrooms next year to meet the requirements of the state Constitution, data presented Monday to a House panel show.

If all available spaces are used, 45 of the 67 districts will not need new classrooms, according to statistics the state Department of Education provided to the House Education Innovation Committee.

Statewide, 22 districts need 2,602 new classrooms to reduce their average class sizes by two _ but Miami-Dade and Broward account for more than half of the need.

Rep. Frank Attkisson, a Kissimmee Republican who chairs the panel, asked whether it was reasonable to think that so many new classrooms could be built by the opening of the next school year.

"That would be quite a task," said Jerry Martin, director of the Office of Educational Facilities. Martin said it can take up to three years to build a new school.

Under the class-size measure that voters approved four months ago, by 2010 a classroom can have no more than 18 pupils in prekindergarten through third grade, 22 pupils in fourth through eighth grade and 25 students in high school.

Between now and then, lawmakers must provide the money to reduce the average class size by two students per year _ but the Legislature gets to decide what "average" means.

State economists last summer estimated the cost of the smaller class sizes to be as high as $27-billion over eight years of implementation. But supporters pointed to other analyses that put the eight-year costs as low as $8-billion.

The House panel, which didn't consider any legislation, also got new data on current class sizes:

In kindergarten through third grade, the average number of students in Florida's classrooms is 21 students this year. In grades 4-8 the average number of students is 23, and in grades 9-12, the average number of students is 24.

Space needs

Here are some local districts and how many classrooms they need:

Hillsborough 164

Manatee 16

Pasco 110

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