Balt. Co. schools filling up fast, discussion to reverse overcrowding heats up

Posted at 11:18 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 23:31:03-05
The amount of kids in your child's class matters. The new annual report from Baltimore County Schools shows overcrowding continues to be a problem, but an overnight fix isn't going to happen. 
The meeting comes on the heels of the school district's annual report. It shows overcrowding across the board but most notably in the northeast section of the county. That includes schools like Perry Hall and Vincent Farm elementary schools.
Those ABC2 spoke to say this isn't a new problem but it affects people across the county and there's no overnight fix in sight. 
"The kids have to elbow each other out of the way to get to classes, they start lunches at 10 and they don't have lockers," said parent Shannon Ocean-Shapiro. 
"Entire grades in trailers outside the school; we need long term solutions," another parent, Yara Cheikh, told ABC2. 
The school system has tried to address the overcrowding issue with studies and redistricting plans but county leaders said more needs to be done.
"I've tried to do a lot as councilman to reduce school overcrowding," said Councilman David Marks of Baltimore County. "We down zoned a lot of land, we've tried to limit development, but a lot of the problem is due to demographic changes as younger families come into the community." 
Marks represents Perry Hall, one of the areas in the northeast area with the worst overcrowding. 20 out of 21 elementary schools there are over capacity, including Perry Hall Elementary, by 198 students. Same story at Vincent Farm Elementary -- over by 185. But this issue runs countywide. 
"I think we knew there was overcrowding throughout the county in the elementary schools a decade ago and what the county needs to do and what the school system now is to address overcrowding in the middle schools and high schools in central, southeast," said Cheikh. 
But that's easier said than done. 
"There's a lot of people involved in this the school board has a part," said Marks. "The county executive is the one who will put the money in the budget that ultimately goes to the county council." 
Marks also mentioned curbing development in overcrowded areas, but outside of cost to the county, parents worry about the effects overcrowding. 
"What we worry about when we see overcrowded schools is increased stress on our administrators, our teachers our students," said Cheikh. 
According to the annual report, countywide elementary school enrollment is at 105 percent. The school system says it's open and welcomes public comment and input when it comes to enrollment numbers.
School leaders are aware of the problems and concerns from parents, students and staff. They say this issue must be looked at holistically and focus on the county as a whole.
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