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BCPS Considers Enrollment Cap at West Towson Elementary

The school, opened in 2010, is on track to be at 110 percent of capacity this year.

When opened in 2010, community leaders to extreme overcrowding at nearby Rodgers Forge Elementary.

Now, one year later, Baltimore County schools officials are faced with a new question—what do you do when West Towson Elementary is in the same position?

According to a two-page report presented at a Board of Education work session Tuesday night, among the solutions is capping enrollment and revisiting school system policies on transfers. West Towson is on track to hit more than 500 students, 110 percent of its 451-seat capacity, according to Baltimore County Public Schools estimates. That is well ahead of initial projections of 463 students for this year

A enrollment cap would mean that, if a grade at West Towson fills up, students who would otherwise attend the school may have to be sent elsewhere.

School system spokesman Charles Herndon said the numbers are not final, especially as the first day of school draws near.

Exacerbating the problem for West Towson is that the nearest elementary schools, including Rodgers Forge, Riderwood, Stoneleigh and Hampton are all dealing with overcrowding issues of their own.

School officials are somewhat hamstrung when it comes to overcrowding at West Towson—trailers won't fit on the campus, which it shares with the special education , and more expensive options, such as construction, are off the table.

"The next step in an effort to continue to provide the school with a safe and conducive learning environment is to cap West Towson’s enrollment, at least until a longer term solution can be approved and implemented," the report states.

Herndon said an enrollment cap is one of "a number of options" and has been used at other schools in the past. The report indicates that the school is currently examining room use policies and other ways to better use the current space.

"It's obviously something that we have our eye on," Herndon said.

We've attached the document from Tuesday's meeting to this story.

Cathi Forbes, a West Towson parent and chair of Towson Families United, said the situation at WTES was inevitable.

"We knew we were adding one classroom full of kids," she said. "It's almost expected."

But she was surprised to hear officials talk about enrollment caps.

"That's never been a word they've used in the county schools in all the years I've been following the issue, but they don't really have a choice at West Towson," she said.

She lamented that the school system lacked the foresight in the 1980s to keep Ridge Ruxton, Towson Elementary and Cromwell Valley Elementary schools open as community schools—Towson Elementary is now Bykota Senior Center and Cromwell has a large magnet program.

"Things all should've started sooner," she said. "West Towson should have opened open two years before it opened."

However, Forbes said she's pragmatic about what can realistically be done.

"The economics of it is what drives it," she said. "The cost of building a new school and staffing a new school and opening a new school is a great cost, not that I don't think they should do it."

mike gardiner August 25, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Too many kids from too many families moving to older Towson neighborhoods for free schooling. That is the problem.
JDStuts August 25, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Ha! Kamenetz should start blaming Jim Smith for his shortsighted policy to re-invigorate older neighborhoods. Then he should outline a policy to provide breaks and incentives that foster sprawl into the further reaches of the county while promising to provide new roads and schools...hey, wait a minute.
Old Terp August 25, 2011 at 05:58 PM
@gardiner: Those devs are a couple years old, or new and the 'Green' isn't even complete so what records could you mean... they aren't fully occupied and the ecconomy is still in free-all so saying anything about how many families live in them or will live in them is a total guess... that's the kind of certainty that led to elimination of six elementary schools and the repurposing of two middle schools in Baltimore Co during in the early '70s. Neighborhoods aren't a static thing and unless those huge apt blocks had some perpetual regulation in place there's no telling what will happen in the future. From the way they were built, the newest ones along Fairmount and York will be falling apart in about 10-15 years and that's a fact that's I don't have to guess about - so the interesting guess will be who might then live in them down the road. Desireable neighborhoods are the ones that have decent schools, good housing stock, and amenities like parks. Rodgers Forge has all of those things and I don't think you'll find the folks living there complaining that their property values have been somewhat stable because of kids. If families recognize West Towson as the desirable neighborhood it is then that buoys the property values.
Old Terp August 25, 2011 at 06:07 PM
@gardiner Your solution is simple - sell your desirable expensive house and move to a cheap house in a neighborhood without a school. Then you won't have the kids you hate or the high property taxes.
JDStuts August 25, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Don't bother. If he fails to grasp the concept that States and municipalities have a legal obligation to provide education ( a concept that dates back as far as Benj. Franklin), that schooling isn't free and the original justification for property/sales taxes was to fulfill that legal obligation your real estate advice isn't going to make much headway.

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