Second committee to study overcrowding in schools Balto. Co. Council picks new panel to find solution

March 12, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Still stumped for solutions to overcrowded schools, the Baltimore County Council has appointed its second committee in two years to study the problem.

The seven-member panel, headed by council auditor Brian J. Rowe and including acting school Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione as a member, has a June 30 deadline to find a solution. June 30 is the expiration date of a law prohibiting building homes in neighborhoods where elementary schools are more than 20 percent over capacity.

Mr. Rowe said he plans to hire a consultant, Tischler and Associates, to update its 1991 school facilities report, and to have committee meetings once a month through June.

Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said he wants a list by early June of possible options for getting enough money to provide the classrooms the county needs. Mr. Kamenetz said no consensus has been reached about ending the moratorium.

Several council members were clear, however, about what they want from the committee: suggestions of ways to raise money.

"The bottom line is to get money," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat. "We have got to have a concrete way to solve the problem," said Catonsville Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Democrat.

Builders and County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III pushed for the 1990 moratorium law to expire last year, but the council extended it by one year under pressure from constituents worried about more crowding.

The builders insist, and Mr. Ruppersberger agrees, that they are not the cause of school crowding, and should not be penalized. This year the moratorium affects only about 100 planned new homes around the six elementary schools crowded enough to make the list.

Mr. Gardina appointed a committee after the 1995 extension to study the problem, but that panel last month recommended both ending the moratorium and forming yet another committee to find a solution.

Meanwhile, overcrowded, sometimes understaffed schools like Featherbed Lane Elementary in Woodlawn must wait. The school is 38 percent over capacity, according to a recent PTA letter sent to the council, school board members and Mr. Ruppersberger. The PTA said the school is expected to be 54 percent over capacity by next fall.

"How can we as parents and educators consider this safe for our children?" the letter asks, citing some classes with as many as 31 students. "This is not acceptable."

But schools capital planning chief James Kraft said that quick relief is not likely for Featherbed, where overcrowding occurred with a surge in enrollment two years ago -- despite the school leading the list of over-capacity elementaries.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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