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Overcrowding predicted in county schools

June 07, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Though Washington County Public Schools' middle schools still have room for new students, projections of new students show most of the system's schools at every level will be facing overcrowding within the next few years, according to a presentation by a consultant Tuesday.

Deanna Newman, a consultant with Public Pathways Inc. of Minneapolis, told a joint session of the Washington County Commissioners and Board of Education that certain schools and areas will face much more serious overcrowding than others. Among the schools facing the worst overcrowding are Boonsboro and South Hagerstown high schools and Boonsboro Elementary School, she said.

Between 2004 and 2005, the school system's enrollment increased by 303 students, Newman said.

Despite the scheduled opening of the new Maugansville Elementary School in 2008, Newman's presentation also indicated the possibility of serious overcrowding at Paramount, Potomac Heights, Eastern and Greenbrier elementary schools after 2011.

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The board should start planning now how it intends to redistrict students as it prepares for the opening of Maugansville and other new elementary schools, Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

The county and school system also must begin preparing ways for developers to help secure land for a new high school, which will require 50 to 60 acres, Kercheval said. An elementary school requires only 15 to 20 acres, he said.

"That's a major mitigation effort, but you've got to get the critical mass to start the project," Kercheval said. Most likely, a high school project would require the work of a group of developers, he said.

Newman said she based her analysis on recent trends of building permit approvals, birth rates and the current enrollment figures for various grade levels.

Newman said her latest figures for the school system represent scaled-back projections of the number of new permits the county and municipalities will issue in future years, and she said has cut back her estimates for the number of students who typically move into new housing units.

According to the figures, the school system, which reported an enrollment of 20,807 students to the Maryland State Department of Education in 2005, will see enrollment top 22,000 students by 2008.

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