Summer is over for 36,000 schoolchildren when the bell rings Wednesday

September 04, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

On Wednesday, Harford County students, the bell tolls for thee.

Wake-up alarms will signal the end of summer and beginning of school for the county's 36,000 schoolchildren and 3,900 school employees.

The school system's 2,350 teachers have been working since Monday.

"My classroom's been ready for a week," said Becky Stevenson, a fourth-grade teacher at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School in Abingdon, who was decorating her room before teachers had to officially show up Aug. 29.

The county's 235 new teachers started earlier, too. Eighty-six new teachers were added in this year's budget, said schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. The larger number of hires accounts for filling positions in which teachers retired or left the school system. "We needed 71 to maintain the teacher-student ratio," Mr. Morrison said. "With 86, we can make some moderate improvement."

According to the county staffing formula, class sizes typically are 20 students or less in kindergarten; 23 students in first and second grade; 25 in third, fourth and fifth grade; and 30 in middle and high school classrooms.

"That's not to say you wouldn't find individual classrooms with more," Mr. Morrison said.

Even with Emmorton Elementary near Bel Air and Church Creek Elementary in Belcamp opening this year, several of the county's 49 schools are overcrowded.

Thirty-seven county portable classrooms and seven "relocatables" provided by the state will ease the crunch at 18 packed schools.

The affected schools are Abingdon Elementary with two relocatables; Bel Air Elementary, four; Bel Air Middle, five; C. Milton Wright High, three; Churchville Elementary, one; Deerfield Elementary in Edgewood, two; Forest Hill Elementary, two; Hickory Elementary, two; Homestead/Wakefield Elementary, eight; Joppatowne Elementary, one; Magnolia Elementary, two; Meadowvale Elementary, two; Norrisville Elementary, two; Ring Factory Elementary, two; Riverside Elementary, one; William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, one; William S. James Elementary, three; and Youth's Benefit Elementary, one.

A 300-student addition at Bel Air Middle will relieve that school's tight quarters. It is expected to be completed in November, Mr. Morrison said.

Emmorton Elementary, where construction workers have been on overtime this summer, will open on schedule Wednesday.

"We have all the necessary temporary permits to occupy the building," Joseph P. Licata, supervisor of construction, said Friday.

An open house is planned at the school for students and their parents at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

It is anticipated that the number of Harford public school students will increase by 1,000 each year for the next five years, Mr. Morrison said. This year, 1,200 new students are enrolled.

"We will now be at an all-time enrollment high," Mr. Morrison said. The previous high was in 1976, when the county had 35,000 students. The number of students fell to 26,000 during a homebuilding lull in the early 1980s. New schools planned in Forest Hill (1996) and in Bel Air (1997) will help meet the school system's projected increases in student population.

Harford's alternative education program will be located at two sites this year, Aberdeen High School and its previous site, Bel Air High. The program will meet Monday through Thursday evenings starting Sept. 12.

In the past, the program was targeted to students who had been suspended or expelled. This year, it also is geared for other high school students.

They might include students with financial difficulties who have to work during the day.

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