November 29, 2018
School & Youth
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County Council Votes In Favor Of School Utilization Bill

Maya Pottiger
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February 6, 2018

The county council recently passed Bill 92-17, which says that schools with enrollment greater than 95 percent of the state-rated capacity must be listed as closed on the annual school utilization chart.

The bill passed 6-1, with Chairman Michael Peroutka being the only councilmember voting against it.

This bill directly addresses the overcapacity issue facing many schools in Severna Park and around the county.

Before the bill passed, a school listed between 95 and 100 percent capacity was still considered open to enrollment. Even if it had only one seat open, anyone could enroll their child, leading to classrooms with large class sizes.

Based on projected enrollment, only Broadneck and Belvedere elementary schools are listed as “closed” on the utilization chart. Broadneck has a projected enrollment of 808 students, which is 113 percent utilization. Belvedere is projected to have 571 students, which is 109 percent utilization.

Two schools are close to the 95 percent utilization, with Folger McKinsey Elementary at 93 percent utilization and Oak Hill Elementary at 91 percent utilization.

Conflict with the bill stems from concerns that it slows development around the county, as it affects the areas in which developers can build.

With schools listed as open, developers could build new housing developments in the area, allowing many families to move in and enroll their children in the schools. Previous legislation required developers to cease building unless they waited for population to decrease on its own, waited six years to continue building or paid to increase the school’s capacity themselves.

An amendment to this bill allows developers to donate land to the Board of Education to use on future school construction and development plans.

“If developers want to cause a problem, they can fix the problem, not the taxpayers,” said Councilman John Grasso, who initially introduced the bill.

Grasso said he is introducing a second piece of legislation that requires developers to physically count the available seats and number of children in the incoming households. This bill will be presented to the county council at a future meeting, Grasso said.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto proposed a new budget for Fiscal Year 2019 that also addresses classrooms that are over capacity. Two Pasadena schools are allocated funds for new additions in the bill, and one school has already begun construction.

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