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Schools packed

Ten county schools over capacity

Ten county schools over capacity

October 21, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Ten of Washington County's 43 public schools are over capacity, most of which are elementary schools in or around the City of Hagerstown, according to enrollment numbers provided by the Board of Education.

Twelve other schools are between 90 percent and 98 percent full, according to the statistics.

William Blum, the School Board's chief operating officer, presented the enrollment numbers to the Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council at a meeting Tuesday.

The schools that are at or over capacity are Conococheague, Emma K. Doub, Fountaindale, Fountain Rock, Greenbrier, Pangborn, Paramount, Potomac Heights and Sharpsburg elementary schools and South Hagerstown High School.

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South High was among the schools that gained the most students, increasing its enrollment by 8 percent, or 86 students.

The school's enrollment was 1,153 students as of Sept. 30. It has a capacity of 1,088, making the school 106 percent full.

Blum pitched several ideas about how to deal with the growth in the school system.

Options included keeping Conococheague Elementary School open, redistricting students and building two elementary schools and a high school.

Blum said Salem Avenue Elementary School, which is undergoing renovations, might be over capacity when construction is completed in September 2005.

That's mainly because the school system anticipates the Hager's Crossing development behind the Centre at Hagerstown and the Gateway Crossing development in Hagerstown's West End will put about 400 additional students in the school, according to Blum's presentation.

If the School Board returns fifth-grade students to Salem Avenue once it's renovated, that would boost enrollment by 63 students, according to the presentation.

Those changes could increase Salem Avenue's current enrollment of 344 students to 807. The renovated school will have the capacity for 638 students.

Fifth-graders in the Salem Avenue and Winter Street attendance areas were sent to Western Heights Middle School years ago because of increasing enrollments.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said at Tuesday's meeting that the school system would probably end up with "mega" schools.

"The kids have to go somewhere," Morgan said.

The school system has projected its construction needs to total $170.8 million from fiscal years 2006 through 2011, according to the board.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Wednesday that the growing enrollment is why it's important for the county to charge development fees.

Developers who want to build in areas where schools are at 85 percent capacity must pay a $7,355 per dwelling unit fee, under the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. That money goes toward building schools or additional classrooms, to help make sure schools have enough capacity for growth.

"I guess it just references the need for our APFO and the ability to charge fees ..." Wivell said of the school system's enrollment. "There's no way we can borrow that kind of money."

"Obviously, it's going to be a major issue," he said.

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