Nearly 60 percent of Baltimore County's elementary schools are overcrowded, as student enrollment at all levels climbed to an 12-year high of 93,000 students -- half of whom are in kindergarten through fifth grade.
"We have 16,000 more elementary school students than we had in 1983," planning manager James Kraft told the school board last night.
Since then, the county opened two elementary schools -- Joppa View and Seven Oaks -- with a combined capacity of just over 1,000 students.
Other overcrowding problems cited by Mr. Kraft:
* Fifty-four of the county's 94 elementary schools are over capacity. Among the most overcrowded are Pot Spring in Timonium with 787 students and a capacity of 558, and Sparks with 447 and a capacity of 286.
* Five of the 25 middle schools are over capacity. The worst is Franklin Middle, with 1,053 students, but a capacity of 967.
* Three of its 21 high schools are over capacity. Perry Hall is the worst; its capacity is 1,407 students, but it has 1,752 pupils.
* Three additional high schools -- Catonsville, Overlea and Randallstown -- are at capacity.
None of this surprised Mr. Kraft, who said his enrollment projections for this year were 99.4 percent accurate. What did appear to surprise Mr. Kraft and the board was that enrollment increased after the school year began.
When the system took its official enrollment Sept. 21, the 10th school day, the total was 92,566, Mr. Kraft said. But last Wednesday, schools had 93,233, an increase of nearly 600 students that he could not explain. In past years, he said the difference was insignificant.
Enrollment for the next school year is expected to rise by 3,200 students, which would put the total above 96,000. That compares with the September 1980 enrollment figure of 97,682.
County voters are being asked to approve a $46 million bond issue in November for two new buildings (Mays Chapel Elementary on Padonia Road and a new middle school on King Avenue in Essex) and additions to three others (Hereford Middle, Perry Hall High and Hillcrest Elementary), which would relieve some of the overcrowding.
Mr. Kraft said, however, that 60 percent of that money is allocated for repairs and renovations.
Referring to the need for new schools, he said, "We need new seats, but we just can't put all our funds into new seats and ignore our aging infrastructure."
While school officials discussed the problem, no solutions were offered.
In other action, the board approved the creation of the state's first arts and technology school at the Central Technical School in the 900 block of York Road.
Beginning in September, what is now a vocational-technical center serving 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will become a comprehensive four-year high school for students who wish to ++ concentrate on arts or technology.
It will be a magnet school, drawing students from throughout the county.
"Students will be able to come to Central for welding, but students will also be able to come to Central for sculpture," Mary Cary, the new school's principal, said in explaining the program.
The school will have courses in the visual arts, theater, television and writing, as well as welding, carpentry, culinary arts, cosmetology, accounting and data processing.
Students also will take required academic courses. Technology graduates will be prepared to go to work and to continue their education at community colleges. Arts graduates will be prepared to attend college and become proficient in a specialty, she said.
The school will be known as the Carver Center for Arts and Technology and will offer extracurricular activities, including sports and a yearbook.
Ms. Cary said she expects 250 9th-graders and 210 10th-graders to enter in September. Students in the technology program now will finish over the next two years. The school's capacity will be 766 students.