Solving overcrowding in Howard We read with interest...


January 23, 2000

Solving overcrowding in Howard

We read with interest your editorial ("A growing concern," Jan. 6) concerning our proposal to include a middle school test in the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

As you noted, there is general agreement on the APFO Committees recommendations.

We support reducing the test for elementary school capacity from 120 percent to 115 percent and limiting the number of new homes allowed in an elementary school region that is at more than 100 percent of capacity.

We believe, however, that the problem of overcrowding in our schools is not limited to the elementary level.

In fact, until Lime Kiln Middle School was opened this year, Clarksville Middle School was at 150% of capacity. Clarksville Middle Schools overcrowding occurred with the current APFO.

Some people have suggested that the inclusion of middle schools in the APFO should be reconsidered at a later time. Despite the experience at Clarksville Middle School, they do not believe that there is a problem at the middle school level.

Even if this is true, our proposal would simply provide greater predictability to both developers and the community. Everyone would know that in the future, development would be restricted in areas where a middle school becomes overcrowded.

Other people have criticized our proposal because they do not believe it is possible to implement both an elementary and middle school test.

We have learned, however, that most of the surrounding countries already consider elementary and secondary schools when apply their growth management ordinances.

During the campaign of 1998, we visited thousands of homes in our districts.

The overwhelming concern among our constituents was the overcrowding of our schools. We issued a position in October 1998 that we would support including middle schools in the APFO. We are committed to ensuring that middle school capacity is considered when applying the APFO.

The county council will hear testimony on Tuesday evening, Jan. 18 on the proposed changes to the APFO that were submitted by the County Executive. We encourage everyone who is concerned about this issue to attend the public hearing.

Christopher J. Merdon, Councilman District I

Allan H. Kittleman, Councilman District 5

In response to the Jan. 6 editorial "A growing concern," did someone at the paper get it slightly mixed up? Shouldn't it be, "Harvest time for the developers"?

I am tired of hearing how good the current Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance is that it roots a ten-year "proactive" adequate facilities plan for only elementary schools.

First, I hope this public remembers that developers and county employees made up half of that referred to "special committee" which recommended the weak changes to the ordinance. Are developers and county employees half of the county population?

Let's hear from a committee which is representative of the county.

So, why would the developers vote to support anything that may slow their growth?

Perhaps because they are interested in making sure my four children attend a school that is not overcrowded?

Who really believes that a new building restriction that lowers the over capacityceiling in elementary schools from 120 percent to 115 percent is a tight restriction? Even with the program capacity changes in elementary school do you really think this will relieve a crowded school?

The current APFO has allowed the county to betray the northeast schoolchildren. My kindergarten child will attend class at a middle school next year -- is that adequate? Oh yes, let's not forget the in-out-in-again Northeast Elementary school -- which will not be on-line until 2003, even though it was needed yesterday. What has happened to the Northeast will repeat itself in Fulton and western Howard County, if real changes are not made to APFO.

Let's make some immediate changes in APFO; let's be unbiased and proactive for the secondary school level.

Jerry Bialecki, Ellicott City

Talbott Springs isn't so bad

We were disappointed with the seemingly biased viewpoint in The Sun's reporton Talbott Springs Elementary School ("Elementary school battles ezodus of pupils," Jan. 2).

The reporter apparently put more effort into interviewing the parents of those who transferred away than interviewing parents of current Talbott Springs students.

By focusing on perceived shortcomings, readers were left with the (basically unfounded) impression that students had valid academic reasons for transferring to neighboring schools, such as Stevens Forest. In fact, the past year's MSPAP standardized test scores show very little difference between Talbott Springs and Stevens Forest.

The Sun had originally asked to interview several Talbott Springs parents, and a few were ready to share their (favorable) opinions, but the reporter neglected to carry through.

Being the parents of three present and former Talbott Springs students, we believe the school is doing an exceptional job at catering to the widely varying needs of each individual child. The teachers went out of their way to accommodate our own children's special needs,enabling them to reach their highest potential (and attain some of the highest CTBS scores in the state).

We're quite happy with the school, and the cultural diversity at Talbott Springs is a bonus that only enhances the cumulative education experience.

Bruce & Lisa Van Aartsen, Columbia

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