Baltimore County's school enrollment swelled by more than 3,400 students this fall, the largest increase in more than 20 years.
But the increase didn't surprise the school system.
Last year, James Kraft, who has projected school enrollments for more than 20 years, estimated that there would be 95,894 students. He missed the mark by 198 students, meaning his projection was 99.8 percent accurate.
"Better than Ivory soap [advertised as 99.44 percent pure]," he ,, said.
As of Sept. 30, the county had 96,092 students in its 149 schools, said Mr. Kraft, the school system's manager of capital planning.
This includes students in prekindergarten.
Last year, there were 92,655 students in the schools.
Even though the county added schoolrooms this year, more than half the schools remain overcrowded, including 63 of the 95 elementary schools.
This year the school system reopened Lutherville Elementary School, making room for 500 students, and built an addition to Prettyboy Elementary, increasing its capacity by 150.
Another 1,250 slots will be available next year when two more elementary schools -- Cromwell Valley in Towson and Jacksonville in the northern section of the county -- are opened.
However, these additions can't accommodate all the elementary students coming into the system, said Mr. Kraft.
The largest grades are first and second with more than 8,100 students each.
The smallest grade is 12th, with about 5,000 students in 23 schools, said Mr. Kraft.
The county increased its high school capacity by almost 1,500 this year with the opening of the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson and the Western School of Technology in Catonsville.
Previously, these schools were technical centers with students coming part-time from nearby high schools.
Overcrowded schools are sprinkled throughout the county, though all the middle and high schools in the southeast are under capacity. However, 11 of that area's 21 elementary schools are overcrowded.
The county's five centers for disabled students have about 500 fewer students this year.
Students in those centers were transferred to neighborhood schools through the controversial "inclusion" program, in which disabled youngsters are taught in regular classes.
Despite the classroom crunch, school officials were happy with the increased enrollment because it buttresses arguments for the proposed capital and operating budgets.
The school board recently approved a capital budget for fiscal 1995 that requests about $30 million from the county and $11 million from the state for 15 projects, including school additions and renovations and portable classrooms and about $10 million for new roofs.
The county executive and County Council have final authority over the schools' capital and operating budgets.
The school system had about 135,000 students in 1971, when enrollments began a 15-year decline. Enrollment was about 81,000 in 1986 but has been growing steadily ever since.
In 1992-1993, about 110,000 students attended schools in Baltimore City, where enrollment has remained relatively stable for several years. Final enrollment figures for this school year are not yet available.
0&Year; .. .. Pupils .. .. Chg. .. .. %
'93-'94 .. 96,092 .. .. 3,437 . .. 3.71
'92-'93 .. 92,655 .. .. 2,949 . .. 3.28
'91-'92 .. 89,706 .. .. 2,865 . .. 3.29
'90-'91 .. 86,841 .. .. 2,744 . .. 3.26
'89-'90 .. 84,097 .. .. 1,876 . .. 2.28
'88-'89 .. 82,221 .. .. 1,094 . .. 1.34
'87-'88 .. 81,127 .. .. . 497 . .. 0.61
County schools, Sept. 30 figures