New enrollments halted at New Town Elementary

Owings Mills school, opened a year ago, is 300 pupils over capacity

September 06, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston took the unusual step yesterday of halting new enrollment at New Town Elementary School, a facility that has been struggling with crowded classrooms since it opened 200 pupils over capacity a year ago.

The enrollment limit is believed to be the first in the history of the county school system. Nearly 1,000 pupils attend New Town Elementary in Owings Mills, one of the fastest-growing areas of the county. That's about 300 more than the school was designed to hold, and more are applying every day.

To keep class sizes at an average of 25 pupils, Hairston decided that as of today, children who are eligible to enroll at New Town will instead be bused to Glyndon Elementary or Franklin Elementary in nearby Reisterstown.

The superintendent announced his decision to New Town parents and staff in a letter sent home with pupils yesterday.

"Recent population shifts and the pending occupancy of new housing in the area could place an additional strain on a school that is already overcrowded," Hairston wrote.

Glyndon and Franklin Elementary are under capacity and can accommodate new students, Hairston said yesterday at a news conference to discuss the New Town plan.

The president of the New Town Elementary PTA, Arvis Tucker, said the group gave out the telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of top county school officials at back-to-school nights this week and urged parents to complain about crowding at the school. Some classes have as many as 28 pupils, she noted.

"It's a start," Tucker said yesterday of the limit. "I don't know if I would say I'm happy. I'm encouraged. I will be way more happy when the number is below 1,000."

Because of crowding at New Town last year, the school system hired 15 new teachers and added three portable classrooms.

New Town finished the year with 930 pupils. School officials expected 955 this year, but enrollment kept rising, with three more children applying yesterday before the superintendent took action.

School officials did not have an estimate yesterday of how many pupils would be moving into the New Town area and trying to enroll this year. But they are worried because the community is growing quickly.

The officials said they did not think New Town Elementary would require any new teachers or more portable classrooms this year. Hairston said that in his proposed 2003-2004 budget he will request a $1 million, 100-seat addition to replace the portables.

The superintendent said the limit gives the system time to review how to decide which pupils in the New Town area go to what schools.

Michael Franklin, president of the PTA Council of Baltimore County, said redrawing the boundaries, rather than building an addition, would solve the crowding problems.

Hairston pledged to provide additional resources to Glyndon and Franklin Elementary schools if needed. The PTA presidents at those two schools, who were told of Hairston's decision by their principals yesterday, said they welcomed new pupils.

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