Charles County Sets New School Allocation Standard

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Charles County Sets New School Allocation Standard

La Plata, MD - 5/1/2012

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By Andy Marquis

Unanimous approval of the State Rated Capacity (SRC) amendment to the Adequate Public Facilities (APF) Ordinance set a new standard for school allocation in Charles County on Tuesday morning. The shift to SRC limits the number of seats available in schools which imposes new restrictions on development.

The move comes after frustrated parents showed up to numerous public hearings, including a public hearing on SRC in early March, and town hall meetings to express their concern over the repeated cycle of redistricting schools that takes place every three years. The message was almost unanimous from parents who say their children will attend seven or more different schools despite living at the same address. The Charles County Board of Commissioners, which has no control over the redistricting, has addressed the situation as a growth issue and maintain that SRC, which was initially opposed by Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins (D) and Commissioner Debra Davis (D: 2nd), will help curb growth and will be a crucial step in addressing the problems. Despite their previous opposition, Collins and Davis did vote for the amendment today and have touted the benefits of SRC in town hall meetings held in April.

“We are very pleased that finally a significant step has been taken by this determined board of commissioners to slow down the overcrowding of our schools,” Charles County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Supporting Services Charles Wineland said. “It will not be seen immediately due to the number of housing starts already approved, however, it will be felt in the near future and years to come as we begin to limit school enrollment to the actual state-rated capacity of each school or simply put the available seats in the classroom.”

During discussion on the amendment, Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) challenged Chief of Resource and Infrastructure Management Jason Groth’s assertion that schools which are overcapacity are not allocated.

“We still find ourselves with overcrowded schools,” Kelly said. “We need to understand how these growth patterns are taking place and where they’re taking place. We do not have adequate revenues here to support what’s taking place. We need to do something to address the redistricting we go through all the time.”

When Groth stated that overcrowded schools are not allocated, Kelly asked Groth why the redistricting was occurring. Groth said there is communication with Charles County Public Schools in regards to school allocation.

“We continue to issue permits for new communities in the Bennsville corridor,” Kelly said. “Somewhere along the way, there may have been a disconnect. What parents are experiencing is inconsistent with what we’re saying.”

Groth said the Planning and Growth Management Department can investigate more to find the cause of the problems. He later told The BayNet that there are schools which are not overcrowded and those are the schools the department allocates for. He also said he could not comment on the redistricting as it is a Charles County Board of Education issue.

Collins said there was no quick fix and that the problems needed to be identified, sentiments echoed by Commissioners Ken Robinson (D: 1st) and Bobby Rucci (D: 4th). Robinson also spoke about demographics in the county changing which results in more students being placed in public schools.

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