At last week's meeting of the Baltimore County Board of Education, a report was presented that should be required reading for any parent of a student at one of our county's elementary schools.
According to data compiled by the school system's Office of Planning and Support Operations, 39 elementary schools countywide are already over their state-certified capacity. Current projections indicate that collectively, the number of enrolled students will exceed existing elementary school capacity by at least 2014.
The "Report on BCPS Enrollment and Capacity" indicates that the focal point for much of this K-5 grade growth is centered in the central area of the county, specifically the communities of Towson, Lutherville, Sparks and Timonium. Twelve elementary schools in this area are over capacity as of Sept. 12. Notably, Hampton Elementary is at 170 percent.
While the crisis faced in the central area of the county certainly requires attention, Perry Hall is not immune to this challenge. While 2011 data for schools in our area is not yet available (BCPS officials plan to release this data no later than the second week of October), last year's data shows some troubling trends.
Of the six elementary schools that principally serve the Perry Hall area, two were over capacity as of Sept. 30 and two others were dangerously close to exceeding their capacity.
BCPS data showed the following:
- Perry Hall Elementary: 574 students (516 capacity): 111.24 percent
- Gunpowder Elementary: 517 students (499 capacity): 103.61 percent
- Joppa View Elementary: 620 students (621 capacity): 99.84 percent
- Chapel Hill Elementary: 599 students (636 capacity): 94.18 percent
My son attends Joppa View Elementary. While I haven't seen any official statistics, I can report that opening day class sizes were higher than what had been announced as of last year's class assignments.
In my son's third grade class, there are 29 students enrolled, only one below the elementary class size limit of 30. While I have always had complete confidence in the educators and administrators at Joppa View, I do worry that this spike in enrollment will add additional strain to their already challenging jobs.
Also relevant is the fact that these elementary schools will ultimately feed their student populations to local middle and high schools. Last year's enrollment data noted the following:
- Perry Hall Middle: 1,578 students (1,643 capacity): 96.04%
- Perry Hall High: 2,229 students (2,110 capacity):105.64%
While a certain percentage of today's elementary school kids could end up transferring out of the system before moving beyond elementary school, it's also a sure bet that new students will move into the area.
As Kara Calder, chief planner for BCPS, noted in her report, portable classrooms do not represent a viable long-term solution.
Knowing this today, it is vital for our educators and decision-makers to plan now to build the necessary infrastructure to serve our youth in premier fashion.