Enlarged classes await kids Money pinch means too few teachers for bigger enrollments

August 30, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Many of Howard County's 34,000 students will arrive at school today to find they are in larger classes. That's because the school system has run out of money with which to hire additional teachers to accommodate unexpected enrollment increases.

To cope with the enrollment, some teachers are going to have to pack up and move to different schools once officials decide where there is a dire need.

School officials Tuesday assigned the last of the 21.5 teaching positions from a pool used to staff schools experiencing last-minute enrollment increases. Without money to hire more teachers, school officials will have to shuffle and manage with what they have.

"We really don't like to do that, but, given the circumstances, we really have to," said Associate Superintendent James McGowan.

The change for teachers will occur after they spent last week preparing bulletin boards, class lists and curriculum for the entire school year.

School officials won't know how many teachers they must move until Friday, when they do their first preliminary enrollment count. School officials said they hope to make the reassignments early to prevent further disruptions to schools.

School officials have used some of the teaching-pool positions to fill other needs, such as hiring a third administrator at Wilde Lake High School and hiring interns to work as school psychologists.

School officials said they expect that 1,600 more students -- for a total of 34,000 -- will attend county schools this year. The school system hired nearly 200 new teachers this year, the highest number in about 10 years, according to Al Tucci, the schools' supervisor of human resources. About 70 will fill positions for staff members who went to two new schools, Rockburn Elementary and Mount View Middle School.

The 130 other teachers were hired to fill gaps left by the county's increasing enrollment, "but there have been some unexpected leaves of absences and turnovers," he said. "We need more teachers."

Most of the requests for additional teachers have come from schools in the Ellicott City, Elkridge and West Friendship areas, where hundreds of new homes are being built.

School officials had asked for 40 pool positions in this year's operating budget but had to decrease that number after County Executive Charles I. Ecker cut $4.5 million from the school system's budget proposal. The County Council restored $1.8 million of the cuts made by Mr. Ecker, who said that he would restore some additional money to this year's $203 million school operating budget if tax revenues are up in January.

Even if additional money is available in January, school board Chairman Dana Hanna said, he doesn't expect more teachers in dTC schools unless there is a large increase in the number of students during the fall.

"You're not going into an elementary school and add a new teacher and move students around," he said. "Even if it's a problem midyear, it's fraught with problems to revamp . . . classes."

Teachers don't like being moved after the first week of school, and school officials say they don't want to move them, either.

"There's a great deal of energy that goes on in preparing for the school year," Dr. McGowan said. "We like to keep things running as smoothly as possible."

The teachers' union offers an alternative to moving teachers.

"If the class sizes are as bad as we are hearing from our members," said union President James R. Swab, "the board might have to look at the possibility of placing some of the supervisors in the classroom on a one-year temporary basis or an emergency basis."

Of course, putting supervisors in the classroom might create a need at the central administration, but, said Mr. Swab, "the critical need is always in the classroom, dealing with kids directly."

"Hopefully, other supervisors will pick up the responsibilities."

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