Baltimore County Elementary Schools To Be Beyond Maximum Capacity in Four Years

The most overcrowded schools are in the central and northern parts of the county.

At least a dozen elementary schools in the central and northern part of the county are seriously overcrowded and more schools or brick-and-mortar additions will likely be needed, school planning officials told the Baltimore County Board of Education Tuesday night.

Kara Calder, executive director of planning and support operations for the system, said that system-wide enrollment growth from 104,331 students currently to 107,309 students in five years, is steady growth overall.

But the increase in the elementary school enrollment is more dramatic, she said, and the system will have to look more closely at long-term options such as building schools or additions.

"Relocatable classrooms are not a long-term solution," she said.

Schools in Maryland measure overcrowding by what is called "state rated capacity," which is a formula that the state Department of Education uses to determine if a school has reached its limit. The formula factors into building design, classroom use and other factors. Portable classrooms are not considered in the formula.

While high school and middle school enrollments are projected to go up, they are not projected to surpass the state-rated capacity for buildings, meaning the need to add seats is not as urgent.

Elementary schools, however, are expected to match state-rated capacity by 2014.

Currently at least 12 schools are over 100 percent capacity in enrollment based on September enrollment figures. They are: Hampton, Sparks, Lutherville, Padonia, Stoneleigh, Pot Spring, West Towson, Timonium, Riderwood, Rodgers Forge, Pinewood and Warren elementary schools.

School officials have focused their efforts to relieve overcrowding at Hampton and Stoneleigh elementary schools in the past two years, but Sparks, Lutherville and Padonia elementary schools are at at least 129 percent capacity.

The system currently has two viable sites that it owns which could be used for new elementary schools, including a site in the Mays Chapel area and Dulaney Springs area.

Board President Lawrence Schmidt asked if any major redistricting would ease overcrowding issues, but Calder said that because the overcrowded schools are in one region that it would not work.

"You don't have a lot of seats out there to shift children at this point," she said. "It doesn't work from a system-wide perspective."

Board members received the information in a report for long-term planning purposes. The board will start planning for future capital program budgets in the coming months.

At its last meeting, $75 million in capital projects for the 2013 fiscal year.

Karl Pfrommer September 21, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I can't understand why the school system is so unprepared. It's too late now. However, it seems to me that any school system can easily forecast the potential number of students. Track the number of newly born annually and the county school district where their parents live. Tally the number of annual new borns annually and multiply their number by the annual birth rate increase or decrease. Subtract the percentage of students who attend private schools. Add or subtract the rate of change In the county population. Those calculations would give us the approximate number of potential elementary school students five years before they reach kindergarten. I'm not a demographer. They can calculate this growth much better than I can. Does BCPS use demography? Why are we not prepared?
Tim September 21, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Good questions Karl. Good questions we won't get answered, I'm sure. They are too busy covering their own personal finances.
johnny towson September 21, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Karl: the simple answer is there have been ZERO sustainable investments executed in improving the infrastructure required to maintain existing schools or to plan for new ones. Politics has influenced the natural economies of our county out of balance. Smart Growth, Transit Oriented Development, Low Density Development, Road Improvements, Environmental "protection," unwillingness to partner with the private sector and most importantly, the inability to program beyond the next election cycle have all contributed to the frustration we are experiencing now concerning our schools. It may feel like it is too late, but "right now" is all we have. Unfortunately, the county has no money, its expenses are increasing, resources decreasing and all of its constraints are being out-paced by constituent demand. The only way out of this mess is to innovate partnerships with the private sector to mine the county's resources and potential. This requires leadership as its primary catalyst. It requires that leadership put the county first before their own careers. Leadership, humility and stewardship is the county's most dangerous deficit. Either elected leadership adapt their ways or we do it without them.
Stacey Schantz September 21, 2011 at 03:31 PM
As a parent whose child is about to enter the public school system next year. These posts on BCPS are both eye opening and frightening... I wish there was more confidence in our school systems, more thought to planning, curriculum and rewarding of excellent teachers. How is it that schools get to 129% capacity, that is just disgusting, and probably the same schools who don't have air conditioning. Time to realize that BCPS is educating our future.
margie September 21, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Makes you wonder why BCPS built a new high school Dundalk which is losing population.
Trish September 21, 2011 at 04:19 PM
I think the increase in enrollment has a lot to do with the economy. Many parents who previously would have enrolled their children in private schools are now looking to public schools as an alternative because they simply can't afford it. The county has many excellent public schools and people are taking advantage of them. That said, the county needs to get their priorities straight and come up with a solution to this problem ASAP. Next year will only be worse.
walker September 21, 2011 at 04:30 PM
wonder if they have thought out the fact that homeowners who cant sell their house are renting them and the renters are moving their whole extended family in with them. not to mention the fact that there are also homes that are cut up into 2s and 3s. my block alone has 4 homes that are cut into 2 and 3 units with full family in each. that is 4 homes housing like 10 familys. problem is out of hand.
Frank September 21, 2011 at 04:38 PM
One of the great inequities in BCPS is the resources allocated to Title I schools, of which few, if any, are in the central area. Millions of federal, state, and county dollars are spent on resources, materials, programs, etc., to benefit failing schools and schools with half or more than half of the population receiving free or reduced lunch. Schools not meeting these criteria must make raise funds for Promethean boards and other materials that are given to Title I schools. The assumption is that the kids in successful schools, and in the central area in particular, will do well with or without up-to-date, cutting edge resources and additional instructors. Joe Hairston argues that there must be equity across the county; that does not exist now. Good money is thrown after bad each and every year in BCPS. Central area students are cheated of resources, not just physical space.
Beares September 21, 2011 at 05:54 PM
County has continually allowed the destruction of our rural and agriculatural areas for housing developments and large empty business centers (rte 43). All this over developing has not only destroyed the environment but has also led to crowded schools. Time the County stepped up and starts working on their mistakes
Frank September 21, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Remember how Mays Chapel fought the playgrounds and sports fields? I suspect lack of community support is one of the reasons that there's not a lot of room to "shift children."
Old Terp September 21, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Schools should be built by-neighborhood and in concert with all new residential development - like they used to be. "Schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last a century. They represented community investments that inspired civic pride and participation in civic life." See 'Why Johnny Can't Walk to School' by the NTHP.
Tim September 21, 2011 at 08:48 PM
At some point this entire country needs to remember our future is in public schools right now. $20,000 a year for private schooling shouldn't be a pre-requisite to getting a good education. That's insane.
Tim September 21, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Indeed Beares, I agree. They've been all too happy with building new housing developments, with no real forethought to actually supporting them.
walker September 21, 2011 at 08:54 PM
walker September 21, 2011 at 09:06 PM
also the reason they keep lowering the standards. we have high drop out rates and kids that act a fool. no respect and why should they. they are stuck in a over crowded house all night then again when they go to school. less attention and everyone just gets pushed through the system. lord help the future because we will be under the leadership of even more ding dongs.
Jimmy September 21, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Relocatable classrooms are not a long term option? Why has Perry Hall High School had more that 8 relocatables for the last 10 years?
Jimmy September 21, 2011 at 09:40 PM
"While high school and middle school enrollments are projected to go up, they are not projected to surpass the state-rated capacity for buildings, meaning the need to add seats is not as urgent." The school may not be at the max capacity, but the cafeterias are not big enough to seat all the students. Perry hall MS and HS both sit more students in the cafeteria than is allowed by fire safety regulations
Renee September 22, 2011 at 01:19 AM
BCPS said, "Relocatable classrooms are not a long-term solution," well at Perry Hall High they must be the long-term solution. The trailers have been there for years! I do not mind a big school as long as they keep class sizes small. My son went to Chapel Hill Elementary with 800+ kids and to Perry Hall Middle with 1500+, so he is use to a big school. I wasn't very concerned about the class sizes at PHH until I found out last year they were cutting 25+ teachers. At back to school night we found out he has 30+ students in most of his classes. This isn't fair to the students or the teachers. Also the timing stinks, because it is just in time for his grades to really count toward his future. Overcrowding issues in high school are just as important as in elementary school and I wish BCPS would open their eyes.
George W. Nellies September 28, 2011 at 09:25 PM
What we're looking at is the result of Donald Peccia's efforts last spring to pull the wool over the public's eyes by implying that staffing ratio and average class size are one and the same thing. He ballyhooed a staffing increase from 19 to 21 in the high schools as resulting in a two-per-class average increase when, in reality, Joe Hairston's decision to put money into electronics and administration instead of teachers was mathematically guaranteed to balloon classes by at least four. And of course, those two "leaders" also conveniently ignored the fact that it is virtually impossible for a school's scheduler to come up with perfectly balanced sections, which meant from the very beginning that many classes around the county were bound to exceed 30. Please tell me that the countdown is on for Hairston's exit.
kevin September 28, 2011 at 11:02 PM
The problem is the city has given up they are forcing the parents who care to send there kids to county schools anyway possible.If the county got serious on residency and I'm not talking about immigrants I'm talking about the kids being dropped off at thier aunts and uncles homes at 7:oo am and getting on school buses .It is incredible I know in the Parkville carney area.
William Lutostanski Jr September 29, 2011 at 04:36 AM
All you have to do is sit at Harford Rd and Putty Hill Ave and wacth the MTA bus from the city drop kids off at the intersection and wacth them walk to school. Baltimore County should get serious about residency and it should happen asap....but it won't.
Tim September 29, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Wow, this is beyond messed up.
William Lutostanski Jr September 29, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Its the cold hard truth Tim Ive seen it with my own eyes.
Gloria Swanson October 15, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Do the words "sanctuary state" ring a bell, Begonia?


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