Facilities Bill Sets Limits To Overcrowding

COUNTY FORUM -- Opinions by and for county readers

February 16, 1992|By Rosemary Mortimer and Maurice Kalin For | Rosemary Mortimer and Maurice Kalin For,The Howard County Sun

The adequate public facilities legislation package limits the allowable overcapacity in any county public school to 120 percent of program capacity. Members of the commission have asked us to explain this aspect of the APFO legislation.

Public schools in Howard County, aselsewhere in Maryland, are funded in part by the state with a formula that utilizes a 30-to-1 student/teacher ratio. The gymnasium, cafeteria, media center and rest rooms, or core capacity, in these state-funded schools reflect the 30-to-1 ratio. However, no public school system in Maryland uses a 30-to-1 student/teacher ratio for instructional purposes at the elementary school level.

The county Board of Education, prompted by concerns from parents and educators several years ago, decided that our elementary schools would be staffed at a student/teacher ratio of 25 to 1. This staffingratio allows for the effective delivery of a curriculum that prepares students for post-high school education in competitive universitiesas well as the world of work in a global economy. The adequate public facilities legislation supports this position.

The current standard is to utilize 100 percent of program capacity in each of the public schools in Howard County. The standard under the adequate public facilities legislation is 120 percent of program capacity.

A schoolthat accommodates 500 students by Howard County standards would be allowed to increase to 600 students under the adequate public facilities legislation. The extra 100 students will be accommodated with fourrelocatable classrooms, each staffed at a 25-to-1 teacher/student ratio.

The core capacity (cafeteria, media center, and so on) of thefacility is already designed to accommodate these students. When this ceiling of 120 percent of program capacity is reached, all new residential construction in the area will be stopped for four years.

The commission took the position that class size is inviolate, and it will not compromise that position. Most parents and students

agree. If we had a rallying cry as school advocates, it was: "No more St. John's Lanes."

Here is an example of how APFO will help.

LaurelWoods today is at 142 percent of program capacity. This situation will be alleviated by the opening in September 1992 of a new school, Forest Ridge Elementary. Forest Ridge will be at 85 percent capacity when opened in September 1992.

Developers will be asked to sit idle with their land for no more than four years at the sketch plan stage if either of these schools reaches 120 percent of program capacity. At the end of this period, developers will be allowed to proceed. It will take an additional two years before children actually come into the schools from these developments.

Six years is enough time for school officials, PTA leaders and developers to lobby county officialsfor a new school or an addition. This provision allows building to continue in accordance with the General Plan and allows enough time for county agencies to provide the school or schools necessary to accommodate the students generated by the development.

(Rosemary Mortimer is the PTA Council president and Maurice Kalin is the associate superintendent, Planning and Support Services, county public schools.)

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