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Jones Elementary Parents Concerned About Overcrowded Classrooms

The PTA has taken to the Internet to spread the word on class sizes at the Severna Park school.

Hoping to avoid last-minute shuffling of teachers next September at Jones Elementary School, the PTA there is using the Internet to survey parents of current and new students to get a better handle on the likley school population for the 2012-13 school year.

Last September, there was last-minute scrambling because of unexpected fluctuations in student population. A week before school started, Jones Elementary School lost a kindergarten teacher due to a 20 percent decrease in enrollment in kindergarten. At the same time, another teacher was added to the second grade, due to an increase among children in that grade.

That type of juggling at the 11th hour adds chaos to an already busy time of year for staff, teachers and students.

Last-minute fluctuation in enrollment as school begins is common, said Chuck Yocum, a specialist in student demographic planning for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. But while the scrambling maybe expected, it doesn't lessen the aggravation it causes.

As a result, members of the Jones PTA is using the Internet to help get a head start on enrollment numbers for next school year with an online survey for parents.

Jones parent Jessica Farrar told Patch about the PTA's initiative, which is to survey all families who intend to enroll their children at Jones next year, whether the students are returning or new. Farrar is asking those parents to visit the PTA website at www.jonespta.com and look for the survey links.

Yocum said a survey to parents ahead of time helps the entire school community avoid being caught off-guard on the first day. "It's good to be proactive," he said. "The sooner we get new families enrolled, the better, [the survey] is a good idea."

According to the AACPS website, the state enrollment capacity for Jones is 319 students. Currently the school shows an enrollment of 350 students, with the same projected for next year.

"Jones PTA wants to be sure teachers are fairly allocated to their kids," Farrar said in an email to Patch, noting that the school has the largest first grade in the county with 27 students enrolled.

The PTA is asking families to complete the survey for their youngest child's 2012-2013 grade. For example, if you have an incoming kindergartner, complete the kindergarten survey, if you’ve got a rising second- and fourth-grader, complete the second-grade survey. "But be sure to list all your children who will be attending Jones next year," Farrar wrote in an email.

Yocum said the average class size per the official AACPS guidelines is 25 students for first, second and third grades, 28 for fourth and fifth grade and a ratio of 18 students-to-one teacher for kindergarten. But it can go as high as 22 students for kindergarten, Yocum said.

He added that this is the first time Superintendent Kevin Maxwell has asked for 60 more teachers to be included in the new operating budget.

Jones Principal Sara Pickens also said she thinks the PTA is on the right track with reaching out to the community to introduce the school to new families and urge them to enroll now and not wait until summer.

Citing the PTA's concern about the possible impact of new housing developments nearby, Pickens noted the physical size of the school is smaller than average.

She praised the PTA's effort to get a handle on what the actual numbers will be for next year to help with planning and avoiding the last-minute "domino effect" caused by the shifting in numbers that occurred last August.

"Jones parents are concerned about the burden large classes place on their teachers and kids," wrote Farrar. "Jones is one of the Full Advanced Learner Program implementation schools, meaning that in addition to the new countywide Treasures curriculum, Jones teachers are responsible for learning and implementing several gifted programs in their classrooms, without the talent development resources teachers that the county cut last spring."

Lorrie Davis February 21, 2012 at 01:35 PM
What drives me crazy about this story is that the school was completely renovated not that long ago. Why did they not foresee this increase? Why do they not make the schools large enough to accommodate our growing community? SPHS new construction plans are not allowing enough space for the growing community and I am sure will be facing the same problems years after the new opening. There is new construction on Truck House, Early Heights, and Jumpers. Where do you think those new families will send their kids to HS?
tom February 21, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Maybe they should reconsider the student/teacher ratio. When I was in the 8th grade it was a split class about 75% 8th grade and 25% 7th grade students. There were about 80 students total with one teacher. She was a nun. We all learned and she never hit any of us and none of us ever hit her or our fellow students. The classrooms were not air conditioned, but we survived. Perhaps part of our success is that our parents worked with us at home and of course there was no texting or video games. I'm not advocating returning to those days of course, but do we really need such small class sizes to educate children and enable them to become successful, caring productive adults? The schools must do their part, but family and community have some responsibility as well.
Leslie Hunt February 21, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Good question Lorrie- There is more new construction over by the school while many older SP neighborhoods have seniors who will eventually move out - and will be replaced with young families.

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