Towson schools standoff

Our view: School overcrowding solution is unsatisfactory

April 04, 2008

The stalemate over Baltimore County's proposed solution to overcrowded schools in Towson suggests it's not a solution at all. That's because the proposal tries to solve two problems at once and fully solves neither. It's an unacceptable compromise.

And yet the alternative of doing nothing would leave some Towson-area elementary schools as crowded as they are now and push off the prospects for a new school for several years and to a new county executive, which might suit some upset parents just fine.

The county school board, recognizing the concerns, has delayed action on the proposed 400-pupil addition to Ridge Ruxton School, which serves medically fragile students.

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. has been roundly criticized for his support of the plan. But the alternatives favored by each set of parents have their own problems.

Ridge Ruxton parents want a school built for their children on county-owned land in Mays Chapel. But Maryland ranks 49th in the nation in efforts to integrate and educate disabled children in a more mainstream setting, and exclusive schools don't advance those federal mandates.

Educating the disabled within an elementary school - establishing a school within a school - has been done successfully in Prince George's and Howard counties, where fully equipped medical suites and other services for special-needs students were provided.

But the proposed addition to Ridge Ruxton wouldn't accommodate the expected increase in Towson-area students. Nor would it allow for an ample cafeteria, gymnasium or open space at the newly expanded school.

King Solomon might have scratched his head over this one, but county parents, school officials and the Smith administration could benefit from some fresh ideas, state assistance, a review of county finances and a little give to try and achieve a better outcome for the sake of all the children.

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