Balto. Co. schools enroll 101,736 Numbers top 100,000 first time in 16 years

development affected

October 12, 1995|By MARY MAUSHARD AND PATRICK GILBERT | MARY MAUSHARD AND PATRICK GILBERT,SUN STAFF

For the first time in 16 years, the Baltimore County school system has more than 100,000 students, continuing growth that has affected not only the schools but also county development.

Public school enrollment jumped to 101,736 students, an increase of 2,386 students -- or about 2.4 percent -- according to figures released yesterday and based on the enrollment Sept. 30, the date used for official counts. The increase marks the ninth year of an upward enrollment trend in the county, which has 158 schools.

That trend has brought larger classes, overcrowded schools and demands for more teachers.

It also has sparked continuing confrontation between homebuilders and the County Council over the moratorium on new housing in areas where elementary schools are overcrowded. The measure, created five years ago, prohibits new construction in districts where elementary schools are 20 percent over capacity.

Individual school enrollments will be available this week, said school system spokesman Donald I. Mohler. Planners have promised that they then will release a new list of areas likely to be affected by the moratorium.

Officials did release data showing that Dulaney High is the most overcrowded school. Its enrollment is 38 percent -- or more than 450 students -- above its capacity of 1,204 students, Mr. Mohler said.

During the capital budget hearing last month, Dulaney students, parents and administrators talked about problems caused by overcrowding -- shared lockers, jammed lunch periods and 10 relocatable classrooms in "the Dulaney trailer park."

But the situation could be worse. Enrollments have fallen below official projections the past two years, indicating that growth may be slowing. This year's enrollment was expected to be 102,611. Last year's enrollment of [See 99,350 was about 500 fewer than projections.

The last time the county had more than 100,000 students was in the 1979-1980 year, when more than 102,500 students were enrolled, records show. But enrollment was declining then and fell to 80,854 students 10 years ago.

Many schools closed in the early 1980s have been reopened as officials try to find places for students. Last year, Jacksonville Elementary opened with a capacity of 754 students; this year, there were classroom additions more than 10 elementaries.

Still, problems persist.

This week, parents at Relay Elementary petitioned the school board for another kindergarten class. Each of the three classes has 28 youngsters and one teacher, the petition said.

"There is no doubt that this ratio is unacceptable," it said.

Meanwhile, the moratorium continues to divide county officials and developers. County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III agrees with the homebuilders, who say they are being unfairly penalized and want the law rescinded.

But the County Council has been unwilling. Council members are reluctant to end the moratorium before finding ways to pay for the schools, roads and utilities that more housing would require.

Planners said this week that the Sparks Elementary School area would be among those covered by new moratorium boundaries -- a year after it was taken off the list and 10 months after the school was destroyed by fire.

John Clark, president of the county homebuilders trade group, said he finds it incredible that a district with no school would be on the moratorium list.

But capital budget planner Beverly A. Morley said that because Sparks will have classes at Cockeysville Middle School until at least September 1998, "we don't want to compound an already less-than-desirable situation."

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