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Oct. 7, 2010

Enrollment increases for 2010-2011

by Philipa Friedman, Print Managing News Editor
The 2010-2011 school year has seen a marked increase in enrollment in MCPS from the previous year, coming to about 2,200 new students within the school system. This arrival of new students brings the total number enrolled in MCPS to 144,000 students.

Due to the number of new students in the county this year, MCPS raised the limit of students per class by one, bringing the maximum to 33 students per class, said MCPS spokesperson Lesli Maxwell. "We knew more kids would be coming in this year," she said.

Much of the enrollment increase within the county has occurred in lower grade levels, according to Maxwell. "We're seeing a lot of our growth in the early grades, particularly in kindergarten," she said.

This increase in MCPS enrollment has had in impact in all levels of the school system, not just elementary schools, however. Many high schools in the area, including Blair, have admitted students new to Montgomery County, although the exact numbers will not be released until the official county census at the end of the month.

Blair Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology teacher Julia Smrek has 33 students in each of her five Psychology classes. Although Psychology has traditionally been a popular AP elective, Smrek said that the number of students in her classes is likely due to cutbacks and financial issues within the county.

According to Resource Counselor Marcia Johnson, the scheduling issues associated with this increase in enrollment have been fairly minimal. The problem comes, she said, when new students enter two or three weeks into the school year. "By this time, electives are pretty full," she said. "New students have very little choice at this point."

Many popular electives, including Foundations of Art, Foundations of Technology and Peace Studies, have already met the maximum of 33 students because they are classes that help students to fulfill credit requirements in specific areas, said Johnson. Introduction to Engineering has also filled up quickly this year due to the new technology education requirement associated with the STEM Academy program.

According to Johnson, the guidance office's top priority is ensuring that all students, including students entering the school several weeks late, are able to take their required credit classes.

The increase in class sizes is not only due to volume of students, however. "We also have had to cut budgets and wouldn't hire as many teachers to meet the demand for enrollment that we could in a normal school year," said Maxwell. Consequently, the county has been forced to make more use of the staff already employed within the school system. Nevertheless, MCPS has also seen 434 new teachers this school year, about 25 percent of whom are MCPS graduates themselves. These teachers oftentimes replace teachers who have retired or been let go over the past school year and are not being paid as high a salary as teachers who have been able to gain tenure.

For the time being, it appears that the increase in enrollment in simply due to an increase in school-age children in the area, according to Maxwell.

At the end of the month, however, MCPS will conduct an official census of enrollment. The census, said Maxwell, will provide a clearer picture of where these students are coming from and which schools have seen the greatest increases in enrollment this school year.

In order to accommodate Montgomery County's growing student population, a number of construction projects are beginning as the 2010-2011 school year kicks off. Six major schools construction and renovation projects will begin this year, as well as the revamping of several overcrowded elementary schools in the county.

In addition, several schools are being renovated in order to include more environmentally friendly facilities. These schools have received the national certification for environmental consciousness and innovation.



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