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Parents call for reduction of class sizes


Renewing a perennial plea, several Carroll parents asked the county Board of Education last night to hire more teachers because there are far too many students in their children's classrooms.

Bearing a one-page list of the number of pupils in each of the county's kindergarten and first-grade classes, Jeffrey Morse of Taneytown implored the board to make reducing class sizes - particularly in the earliest years of grade school - its top priority.

"Given the steady increase of Carroll County's population, the problem of class sizes will certainly become even more acute if we do not act now," said Morse, who has two children at Charles Carroll Elementary and has taught in public schools in Maryland and Pennsylvania for 17 years.

"There are many demands on the limited money available for our school system. ... It would seem to me, as a parent and as an educator, that many other priorities for the school budget would be irrelevant if our class sizes were reduced," Morse said, noting he declined a job offer from Carroll schools a few years ago because the classes he would have taught were 50 percent larger than the classes at the Littlestown, Pa., high school where he currently teaches.

According to the list, compiled through phone calls to Carroll's 21 elementary schools by Morse and his wife, 12 kindergarten classes and 16 first-grade classes in the county have more than 25 pupils, which is the average sought by school administrators when they assign students to teachers - statistics that school board member Ann M. Ballard called "staggering."

Dorothy Mangle, Carroll's assistant superintendent for instruction, agreed that reducing class sizes is "a legitimate problem," noting just-released statistics that rank Carroll worst among the state's 24 school districts in staff-student ratios and 23rd in teacher-student ratios.

Interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said school administrators are trying to find money to hire more teachers now, as well as looking at ways to include more hires in next year's budget.

"It is a costly thing," he said. "We want to be realistic fiscally, but we will look at it in next year's budget."

In other business, the school board:

Learned that an especially rainy season has put construction at Century High 75 days behind schedule. "Right now, we're pushing into our move-in dates, and we want to keep that at eight weeks," construction supervisor Raymond Prokop told the board. The delay will likely force the hiring of an assistant superintendent of construction to an eight-month, $48,000 contract.

Received a preliminary cost estimate - more than $3 million in Carroll - to implement an all-day kindergarten plan that was included as part of a $3.8 billion spending request approved by the Maryland Board of Education. The budget request will be sent to the governor for the next fiscal year.

Awarded a $30,000 bid to JAED Corp. for architectural and engineering services for a feasibility study of Charles Carroll Elementary School. School officials lowered the rating of the 71-year-old school's condition this year from fair to poor, rocketing the building up a list of construction priorities and setting in motion a formal site assessment to determine whether to close or renovate the school.

Received a summary of grants awarded to Carroll schools over the past three years. The school system received $11 million in grants during the last fiscal year, which represented a steady climb from $9.16 million in fiscal year 1999 and $7.2 million in fiscal year 1998.

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