Anne Arundel County's largest elementary school houses 116 pupils more than it was built to hold and exceeds what the county projected for this school year by a full classroom.
The Greater Crofton Council - which spearheaded a campaign for a new Crofton library - now wants a new school to relieve the crowding at Crofton Elementary.
"[The school is] crying for help," said Torrey Jacobsen, vice president of the council, whose daughter will start at Crofton Elementary in the fall.
The county's long-term budget contains nothing for a new elementary school in Crofton. A six-room addition opened at Crofton Elementary last year, but the school, with a capacity of 614 pupils, has 730 this week. County documents show the school was projected to have 670 pupils by 2009.
"We've grown over 200 kids in the last five years," Principal Harry Zacharko said yesterday.
Crofton doesn't have the largest elementary school building in Anne Arundel County - just the most pupils. The county's September count showed 728 were enrolled. Other schools are also over capacity, but still others have space to spare.
Crofton has five portable classrooms, and Zacharko said he will request three more for next year. One of the three would allow him to expand the school's health room inside the building, because it was not designed for so many pupils.
Zacharko must make sure everyone eats lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cafeteria doubles as a gymnasium, and classes are scheduled in it until lunch is served and again as soon as the tables are cleared.
Jacobsen said Crofton Elementary also needs a new combination cafeteria and auditorium because the one it has holds only half of the pupils.
Zacharko said he had an inkling that the growth was coming. "When they built the houses around here, you didn't think cats and dogs were living in them. We saw the trend," he said.
The growth is continuing. A housing development is going up across the street from the school, and more young families have been able to afford homes in the area because of the strong economy, Zacharko said.
Calls from parents over the summer indicated to Zacharko that the school would surpass the 700 or so pupils he was expecting this school year. He added a sixth first-grade class and got an extra teacher's aide for the fourth grade.
The school got no relief when the 600-seat Piney Orchard Elementary School, also in the Arundel High School feeder system, opened in October in Odenton.
Zacharko said he is pleased with how well his staff is holding up under the pressure of having so many pupils.
Jacobsen said he's worried that the quality of instruction could suffer if growth continues and class sizes increase. He is most upset with school system officials whose job it is to predict school enrollment from year to year.
"Their projections were wrong," he said.