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Planning group consensus on Johnnycake Elementary would affect 75 students

Planning group consensus on Johnnycake Elementary would affect 75 students
A group of parents and educators have recommended an option to relieve overcrowding at Johnnycake Elementary School in Catonsville. (BSMG File)

The last option of four choices of a Baltimore County Public Schools survey regarding boundaries between Johnnycake and Edmondson Heights elementary schools became the first choice of a group of parents and teachers at a planning meeting April 3 at Woodlawn High School.

In an effort to reduce overcrowding at Catonsville’s Johnnycake Elementary, Option 4, as the recommendation is known, would shift the border between the schools to south of Ingleside Avenue west to Talbott Street and then move the border north of Ingleside to Prince George Street. The recommendation affects about 75 students .

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“It will bring both schools below 100 percent [capacity],” said Johnnycake Elementary PTA president Rachel Smith, who lives in Westview Park. “Everyone was very agreeable. Our school dynamics are very similar.”

In its unanimous vote, the planning group selected the same option that was the consensus pick of 17 respondents to the BCPS online survey, making for a relatively brief and fluid process — and meeting, which lasted a little over an hour.

The recommendation will be presented May 7 in Towson to the BCPS school board, which will hold an open hearing on the subject May 15 in the Woodlawn High School auditorium. The school board will then take input from the public and make its final decision June 11 at BCPS headquarters in Towson.

Johnnycake Elementary School is currently at about 111 percent capacity, with 717 students in a building that’s been rated for 559 students, according to enrollment data. Edmondson Heights is at about 86 percent capacity, or about 50 students under capacity. The existing boundary line between the schools is between Prince George Street and the Central Avenue/Newfield Road corridor.

Matthew Cropper, president of Cropper GIS, an Ohio consulting firm that provided data for the survey, cautioned that the school board does not have to accept the recommendation.

“The board has access to all the options and can make changes if it wants to,” he said. “But I think people felt good about Option 4 because it did the best job at balancing enrollment among the schools and best adhered to the objectives and criteria.”

The eight people in the group at the April 3 meeting were so in sync that they did not need the full 30 minutes Cropper gave them for deliberation.

“We picked the best option, the one that will have the least number of kids having to cross Ingleside Avenue,” said Patryc Barnes, an Edmondson Heights resident and parent of an Edmondson Heights student.

Amanda DeLeo, a member of the Southwest Area Education Advisory Council, said that while the planning group members “did the best we can” on the boundary issue, there are other concerns that local public schools face.

“None of what we did today is going to totally alleviate the problem of overcrowding,” she said. “For one thing, the county might want to reflect on what the real student population will be [rather than the projected population]. More attention needs to be paid to building additions to our schools. I would rather the kids have better buildings than have laptops in the kindergarten classroom.”

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