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Parent urges relief for crowding at Johnnycake Elementary School

Community members listen during Monday night pre-budget meeting of the Southwest Area Advisory Council, held at Johnnycake Elementary School to gather community feedback ahead of next year's Baltimore County school budget process.
Community members listen during Monday night pre-budget meeting of the Southwest Area Advisory Council, held at Johnnycake Elementary School to gather community feedback ahead of next year's Baltimore County school budget process. (Libby Solomon/Catonsville Times)

The mother of two students at Johnnycake Elementary School asked the county for relief from overcrowding as southwest Baltimore County parents and educators gathered at the school last night to offer input ahead of next year's school budget process.

"We're busting at the seams," said Rachel Smith. The school of 699 students is 140 students over capacity.

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Smith pointed to Johnnycake's six "cottages," a euphemism for classroom trailers, saying other schools have one or two. She also said the school serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., staggering classes to fit all the students a too-small cafeteria.

Melissa Kiehl, treasurer of Catonsville Elementary's PTA, said that though she felt there were plenty of construction projects in her own area of Catonsville, "this side is still really hurting."

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After about 70 minutes of testimony from 26 speakers, the last person to take the stage at a public hearing last week on proposed changes to elementary school boundaries in Catonsville and Arbutus got a large round of applause from the audience.

Smith passed out fliers calling the school's overcrowding issues a matter of equity, noting that Johnnycake is one of the nine schools in the southwest area of the county with 90 percent or more students of color.

"It's. Our. Time," the flier said.

Parents at the Southwest Area Advisory Council meeting of around a dozen community members also requested changes to the systems that keep track of elementary students' buses and allow bus drivers to communicate during emergencies.

Baltimore Highlands Elementary School parent Dayana Bergman expressed concern that bus drivers no longer have radios that allow them to communicate to their supervisors hands-free.

"The radios have to be replaced somehow," she said, adding after an incident in Parkville in which a man jumped on the hood of a school bus earlier this month, she worries about drivers' ability to communicate in emergencies.



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