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Hillcrest Elementary parents bring overcrowding issues to school board

Parents from Hillcrest Elementary School lobbied the Baltimore County Board of Education to take note of the school's overcrowded conditions and begin searching for a solution.

"As it happens every year, we have more children to fit into the same time and space," Kelly Fox, a PTA member and parent of a first- and third-grade student at Hillcrest, told the board during the Feb. 5 meeting in Towson. "We have simply reached our physical limits."

According to county enrollment data, Hillcrest Elementary has 815 students this year, putting the school 22-percent over its state-rated capacity of 666 students.

Ten-year projections call for enrollment to reach 884 in 2017, and 870 in 2022.

Fox told the board of the difficulty in hosting enriching activities when the only room in the school where the entire student body can gather is the cafeteria — a room that hosts lunch service from 10:45 a.m. to 1:35 p.m.

Specifically, Fox lamented the cancellation of a series of storytelling events that brought local and national authors into the school on Frederick Road for assemblies. But given a lack of space and time to transform the cafeteria for lunch service, Fox said the assemblies became impossible to host.

"I'm saddened, because it's a terrible lost education opportunity for the kids," she said. "We're a community of involved parents and I think we're an asset to BCPS, and I hope that you will help us move beyond our building's limitations so that we can do some of these things that will benefit our kids."

James Kitchel, whose son is in first grade and daughter is in second grade at Hillcrest, said his children love going to school. But facilities issues might limit their education opportunities at the school, which opened in 1968, according to the school website.

"You want (my daughter) to pay our Social Security checks?" Kitchel asked the board. "You want her to cure that future disease? You've got to help her so she can continue to get the education that we all need her to have."

Fellow parent James Reichland said he moved from Ellicott City to Catonsville simply so his first-grade daughter could attend Hillcrest, and said it warms his heart to see parents and children walking to "this little, tiny, beat-up, old, falling-down school.

"It's completely exploding at the seams, but the parents are completely committed to it," Reichland said. "It's a gem."

That commitment could crumble , Kitchel said.

"Longer term, we need more seats soon," Kitchel told the board. "By 2018, you're not going to have a high-performing school. You're not going to have a school at all. You're going to have either a zoo, or you're going to have a place where the parents and community have fled from."

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