- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County school system is continuing its enrollment audit at North Point High School and is expected soon to start an audit at La Plata High School.
The school system will conduct audits at all of its overcrowded high schools North Point, La Plata, Maurice J. McDonough and Westlake. The audits began at North Point because it is ďseverely overcrowded,Ē to use the school superintendentís description. North Point was built with a state-rated capacity of 1,600 students. It now houses about 600 students more than that. At the onset of that audit, the school system offered amnesty to any families who voluntarily withdrew children who were attending the school under false pretenses. Weíve learned that about 30 came forward by the Sept. 19 deadline. Any others who are found to have used false information to attend North Point will be withdrawn from the school and could be charged tuition retroactively. La Plata has about 300 more students than it was designed for.
Luckily, Charles County does have a new high school under construction. St. Charles High School is slated to open in 2014, but the school system isnít waiting until then to address its overcrowding issues in the high schools. Sometimes when schools are too crowded, another option is to shift the boundaries. Earlier this year, in an attempt to relieve overcrowding at three Waldorf elementary and middle schools and avoid adding additional portable classrooms at one of them, the board of education redistricted some of the attendance zones in an attempt to bring the numbers of students at the schools into line with what the state says their capacity should be.
That was a very controversial and emotional issue. Many parents who bought houses in certain neighborhoods so their children could go to certain schools were upset with the changes. They canít be blamed for not wanting their children to be uprooted from one school and sent somewhere else. Some students were sent to schools that were farther from their neighborhoods. For some of the families, it wasnít the first time they were being redistricted to another school zone.
School officials certainly deserve credit for beginning the audits. There have been complaints for years about parents from neighboring Prince Georgeís County who were bringing their children over the county line to attend school here. Because North Point is situated in northern Waldorf just a few miles from the border and Charles County schools do have a good reputation, there could be some validity to those claims. North Point is also the newest of the countyís high schools. Its state-of-the-art facility and its science, technology and industry programs also could be the draw for some families in Charles County whose students arenít zoned for attendance there and might be devising ways for their children to attend North Point.
Growth in Charles County and especially the Waldorf area is not going stop anytime soon. That, in turn, will continue to put more pressure on many of the public schools in the county, more than half of which are currently overcrowded.
There are no new elementary schools or middle schools being planned right now. And it is unlikely that the overcrowding issues will solve themselves. Letís hope the answer isnít more portable trailers. Charles County is now using 265 temporary classrooms, or ďlearning cottagesĒ as some like to call them.
Itís time for our county leaders to come up with some new solutions to ease overcrowding because new schools are expensive to build and redrawing school boundaries every couple of years isnít ideal either. The county can claim now that it has the highest number of the relocatables of the stateís school systems, based on the number of students. Thatís not a distinction we want to continue to hang on to.