Consensus forming on potential overcrowding relief for Johnnycake Elementary School

Johnnycake Elementary School in Catonsville.
Johnnycake Elementary School in Catonsville. (Cody Boteler / BSMG)

A consensus began to emerge Wednesday night at a meeting of community stakeholders on where to draw new boundary lines between Johnnycake Elementary School and Edmondson Heights Elementary School to reduce crowding at Johnnycake.

A relief study committee, composed of teachers, administrators and parents from both schools, discussed three potential scenarios and created a fourth, seeking a more equal balance of enrollment between the two schools. No final decision was made, however. While the boundary process starts at the community level, it is ultimately up to the Board of Education to vote on a final proposal; a board vote is due June 11.


Two more boundary committee meetings are scheduled — on Feb. 20 and April 3 — as well as a public input meeting on Feb. 27 before the final proposal is brought before the board.

Matthew Cropper, an outside consultant hired by Baltimore County Public Schools, presented three scenarios to the relief study committee, which met for the first time in early January. The presentation and supplemental materials are available online.

Johnnycake Elementary School is at about 111 percent capacity, according to data shared with the committee, and Edmondson Heights is at about 86 percent capacity. The existing boundary line between the schools, and where all the presented boundary changes take place, is between Prince George Street and the Central Avenue/Newfield Road corridor.

Johnnycake Elementary School currently houses 717 students in a building that’s been rated for 559 students, according to enrollment data. Edmondson Heights is about 50 students under capacity.

Part of the process for relieving crowding at Johnnycake is moving special-education programs out of the school. Relocating special-education students from Johnnycake Elementary to another school in the region should increase Johnnycake’s capacity to 588 seats, because special education classrooms are rated for fewer individual students than standard classrooms, BCPS officials said at the relief committee meeting.

The first presented option would extend Edmondson Heights’ boundary to Johnnycake Road, south of Ingleside Avenue. It would move an estimated 79 students from Johnnycake to Edmondson Heights, and shift Johnnycake to 97 percent seat utilization and Edmondson Heights to 100 percent capacity.

The second option would extend the existing Edmondson Heights boundary to Johnnycake Road, north of Ingleside and south of Kent Avenue. It would move an estimated 56 students and would place Jonnycake at 101 percent capacity and Edmondson Heights at 96 percent capacity.

The third and final option presented to the committee extends the boundary to Carroll Street, north of Gregory Avenue and south of Kent Avenue. It would move an estimated 59 students, again taking Johnnycake to 101 percent capacity and Edmondson Heights to 96 percent capacity.

After a presentation at the Wednesday night meeting, the committee split into two groups, both made of a mix of Johnnycake and Edmondson Heights representatives. After about 30 minutes, Rachel Smith, the PTA president at Johnnycake, and Haroon Rashed, a parent from Edmondson Heights, stood before the committee and said their group wasn’t totally satisfied with any of the three presented options.

“We actually didn’t like any of the options that were before us, so we took it upon us to make a new one,” Rashed said.

Their proposed action, which Cropper will formally draft into a fourth scenario to be discussed and revised, was described as a combination of options one and two. Smith’s and Rashed’s presented plan kept the balance of schools closer to 98 percent capacity each, rather than sending so many students to Edmondson Heights that it becomes over-capacity.

In “trying to keep that balance as close to 98 percent [capacity] for each of the schools,” Rashed said, “We thought maybe we could even go a bit toward the median [the number of potentially moved students in each of the three scenarios], to have not 79, but approximately 69 students, move.”

Lisa Mack, the school board member who represents the 1st District, where the elementary schools are located, praised the community-based process for determining new school boundaries.

“I’m impressed that its transparent, that its community driven, and there are multiple opportunities for feedback. I don’t think it should be my solution; I think it should be a community-driven decision,” Mack said, adding that she doesn’t live in the affected communities — she lives closer to Frederick Road — or send children to either school. “The process that I like is the community that lives in that area, people from that community are providing input into the process.”