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Teachers on the go

Classrooms in demand

Classrooms in demand

October 11, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - If you think the term "classroom teacher" means each teacher in Washington County Public Schools has her own classroom, think again.

Not only does the school system have teachers traveling from classroom to classroom, often using carts to carry what they will need for the day's classes, but the number of so-called "traveling teachers" in secondary schools has been increasing and is expected to continue doing so, William Blum, chief operating officer for the Washington County Board of Education, said last week.

"Historically, school systems have not tracked traveling teachers because there is no requirement to report it," school system spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

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But a quick unofficial survey she did of the 16 secondary schools last week concluded that the school system has about 45 to 50 floating teachers out of nearly 800 teachers, Mowen said. Some schools have a larger percentage of traveling teachers than others, her survey found.

Her survey found that out of 81 teachers at North Hagerstown High School, 11 do not have their own classrooms, she said. At South Hagerstown High School, which has 74 teachers, 12 full-time and four part-time teachers are without classrooms, she said.

Blum said that with current and projected school enrollment growth, it does not make sense, from a financial perspective, to have empty classrooms during teachers' planning periods.

"It is not ideal from an education perspective. Unfortunately, as schools become more crowded, it becomes a necessity absent sufficient Capital Improvement Program funds," Blum said. "We are using the space as efficiently as possible by increasing utilization."

Edward Forrest, president of the Washington County Board of Education, said the board will try to keep the number of teachers without their own classrooms as low as possible.

"It causes extra effort by teachers," Forrest said. "I can understand where it might be a difficult situation. Hopefully we will try to minimize that."

System officials, in interviews last week, said there have been traveling teachers for more than 20 years.

But some veteran teachers were asked for the first time this year to become traveling teachers, Mowen said. This is due to a few factors, including enrollment increases and a Central Office request that principals try to free up classrooms for new teachers, she said.

Robert "Bo" Myers, principal of North High, said he tried to meet the Central Office's request, but was not able to provide all new teachers to the system with their own classrooms.

When he started as a principal at North High three years ago, four traveling teachers were at the school, he said. The number has tripled due to student enrollment increases and other factors, Myers said.

Myers said he was a traveling teacher when he first taught in the school system, in 1974, and "it was not any big deal for me."

Richard Akers said that by the time he took over as principal of South High in July, veteran teachers already had volunteered to become traveling teachers, freeing up classrooms for new teachers.

As at North High, the traveling teachers use teachers' workrooms as their offices, with four traveling teachers in one workroom, Akers said.

"The number (of traveling teachers) is going up as the high school-age population is going up. As you reach capacity and you get staff to meet your student needs, space becomes an issue," Akers said. "I don't really have room for additional teachers, even if they were offered to me."

Scott Nicewarner, president of the Washington County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, said he is concerned about the issue.

"It is very unfortunate that we are in such a facilities crunch that teachers are being required to be migratory," Nicewarner said last week. "It is becoming difficult enough for teachers that have their own rooms to meet the requirements placed upon them. To make teachers migrate from room to room makes this challenge more so. This situation, as well as the overall facilities issues related to enrollments, needs to be addressed by the Board of Education immediately."

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