Counting lessons go well for planning staff in charge of enrollment projections

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Education Beat

October 16, 2005|By HANAH CHO

Howard County's student enrollment projection for this school year was off by 73 children, according to David C. Drown, the school system's manager of school planning.

School officials projected 47,858 students for the 2005-2006 year, but actual numbers as of Sept. 30 indicated that 73 fewer students, or 47,785 children, are enrolled in the school system - resulting in an error rate of 0.2 percent, Drown told school board and County Council members last week.

Last school year's enrollment was 47,487 students. Officials overprojected enrollment for the 2004-2005 school year by 232 children.

Enrollment projections are important because they are used to plan school construction projects, and they also are important for the county's Adequate Public Facilities Law, which delays development around schools where crowding is predicted.

Historically, projections have been received with skepticism by parents and county leaders, who provide funds for new classrooms. As a result, the school system has been working to better predict enrollment, scrapping its previous projection model in 2000, Drown said.

"It's more of an art than a science," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "It's not precise science - it'll never be."

School officials expect enrollments will continue to climb, but at a slower pace - eventually reaching a plateau of about 50,000 students by 2010.

Security at night games

Security concerns at Howard County high school night games have been heightened since the recent fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl after a night football game in Montgomery County.

Steve Drummond, the Howard school system's security coordinator, updated school board members and County Council members last week on security during night games at the county's 12 high schools.

Night games are staffed with four to five off-duty, uniformed Howard County police officers, depending on the size of the crowd, Drummond said. Private security guards and teachers supplement the police presence.

At the same time, on-duty police officers patrol parking lots and surrounding neighborhoods, providing crowd and traffic control, he said.

Since night games in Howard County began last fall, there have been no major incidents, school officials said. On Sept. 16, a fight broke out near the Wilde Lake High School campus after a football game between Wilde Lake and Long Reach, police said.

Last month, Montgomery County experienced two deaths after football games. On Sept. 16, Stephone Wiggins, 23, of Germantown was attacked in an off-campus fight after a football game at Seneca Valley High School.

Seven days later, Kanisha Neal of Rockville was fatally stabbed on the parking lot at James Hubert Blake High School.

Quest for voting rights

Howard County student leaders lobbying for suffrage for the Board of Education's student member have started a petition drive.

Led by student board member Jeff Lasser, students are asking voters and taxpayers to support their efforts via paper and online petitions.

Lasser, a senior at Atholton High School, is seeking partial voting rights for the student board member starting in December 2006, when the board expands to seven members. Lasser can cast an opinion vote, which is recorded but does not count.

With the change, a student member would be allowed to vote on all issues except the budget, disciplinary personnel matters, school boundaries and closings, and collective bargaining.

Among Maryland's 24 school systems, five local school boards have student members with voting rights. Anne Arundel County's student member can vote on all matters, while those in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have limited voting rights.

The student member on the State Board of Education also has partial voting rights.

The five-member school board expressed concerns about Lasser's proposal, including questions about accountability. The board has scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 27.

As of Friday, 179 people had signed the online petition at petitiononline.com/hcboesmv/petition.html.

A cultural exchange

Dining on Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, Jill Singleton took in the celebration of iftar, a meal that breaks the fast during the month of Ramadan.

Singleton, an ESOL teacher at Mount Hebron High School, was one of more than 100 Howard County teachers and administrators invited by the Muslim community to the dinner last week in honor of their hard work.

"This always feels good. Most teachers work really hard," Singleton said. "I get tired of people saying we have an easy time because we have summers off."

Coinciding with the Muslim holy month, the Howard County Muslim Foundation also used the dinner to raise cultural awareness about Islam. Muslim students talked about fasting during the school day and how they balance their faith and school work.

"The more we could learn about our students, the better teachers we can be," Singleton said.

Although Singleton lived in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for three years, she said she learned something new from her Muslim students.

"What I learned tonight is insight into what it's like being Muslim in the United States," she said. "When I was in [Saudi Arabia] and the Emirates, during the month of Ramadan everything slows down. The whole society slows down and accommodates Ramadan. Here, there is no accommodation for Ramadan."

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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