While average middle school class sizes have stabilized for the past two years, elementary school classes are bulging with students, top Howard County administrators told the Board of Education last night.
Kindergarten and elementary science and social studies classes have grown significantly since 1991-1992. Last year, kindergarten classes at six schools exceeded the limit of 22 pupils for each teacher. This year, 10 schools have classes with up to 29 kindergarten students, school officials say.
Edward E. Alexander, instructional director of elementary schools, attributed the larger class sizes to increased enrollment and a 50 percent reduction in the number of teaching pool positions. The pool allows the hiring of additional teachers once classes begin.
Mr. Alexander said that though he was allowed to hire five additional teachers, he really needed 11.
The number of elementary school social studies classes with 30 to 34 students has almost tripled. The number of science classes with up to 34 students has increased 2 1/2 times over last year.
School officials say the maximum number of pupils for each teacher should be 25-to-1 in grades one through five, 20 1/2 -to-1 in middle school, and 23 1/2 -to-1 in high school.
Board member Karen B. Campbell said small classes are critical because working parents often have little time to spend with their children.
"The family is struggling to put food on the table and maintain survival wherever they're at," Ms. Campbell said. "Those students need the increased care and attention."
Middle schools have yet to feel the effects of severe overcrowding.
"Our numbers have remained the same, our averages have remained the same," said Alice W. Haskins, instructional director of middle schools. "The large influx of kids hasn't hit the middle schools yet."
For example, the number of classes with 26 to 30 students in physical education, art, music, home economics, industrial arts and health remained steady at 185.
Overall, average class sizes throughout the county fall within the guidelines, according to the reports.
Ms. Haskins said she expects the bulge of students in elementary schools to hit middle schools by next year.
Average class sizes increased in five high schools, and seven of nine curriculum areas showed an increase in class size. Class sizes in county high schools increased to an average of 24 students per class, compared with 23 1/2 last year.
County schools had enrolled 32,756 students as of Sept. 30.
In other business, the board rejected the name proposed for the new western middle school on Route 99 about three miles east of Route 32. The board withheld its approval of the name Mount View Middle School after President Deborah D. Kendig said the school is located on a 165-year-old tract called Woodford.
In April, Ms. Kendig received a letter from former Howard County resident Dorothy Baker who grew up in the area and suggested the school be called "Woodford Middle School."
The board approved the name "Rockburn Elementary School" for the northeastern school in Rockburn Branch Park.
Both schools are scheduled to open next August.