Sometimes, the same old solutions are inadequate for stubborn problems. New directions must be found. So it is with overcrowding in the Baltimore County Public School system.
The county has too few bricks-and-mortar schools for the number of students attending. The problem is chronic and unlikely to improve — projections show county public school attendance rising in the years to come. Exacerbating the problem is the troubled economy, which is forcing parents to switch from private to public schools to save tuition costs.
The school district's go-to solution in many cases of overcrowding is portable classrooms, or trailers as most call them. Students must walk outside the school building to these one-room boxes, which sit on lawns, parking lots and what were once recreation fields.
Portable classrooms are supposed to be a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. With each passing year, however, they are looking more and more like permanent parts of the landscaping surrounding many schools.
There's no escaping the obvious solution — more schools, or enlarging existing schools. This has been done in some cases, but they are too few and the impact has been minimal.
The standard obstacles cited by county officials are lack of money and available land. Without a doubt, these are significant hurdles. But we suggest there is another obstacle — lack of creativity and determination.
Creativity might mean finding unconventional solutions — smaller campuses for new schools, former schools returned to use as schools or additions to current schools.
Determination comes down to setting a goal that solves the problem and then implementing the goal. If the Baltimore County Public School system resolves that within a certain amount of time it will provide every single student with a classroom inside a school building, the financial, political and bureaucratic means to accomplish that will, we are certain, become apparent.
The obstacles will also then become apparent. It may take cooperation or even confrontation — or something else — but we feel these obstacles can be overcome if school officials refuse to take "no" for an answer.
Toes may be stepped on, but this is not about making friends in high places. It's about our kids. Too many of them have been out in those boxes for too long. Let's find a way to bring them inside.