15 Sep 2014
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Jones Elementary Parents Concerned About Overcrowded Classrooms

The PTA has taken to the Internet to spread the word on class sizes at the Severna Park school.

Jones Elementary Parents Concerned About Overcrowded Classrooms

Hoping to avoid last-minute shuffling of teachers next September at Jones Elementary School, the PTA there is using the Internet to survey parents of current and new students to get a better handle on the likley school population for the 2012-13 school year.

Last September, there was last-minute scrambling because of unexpected fluctuations in student population. A week before school started,  Jones Elementary School lost a kindergarten teacher due to a 20 percent decrease in enrollment in kindergarten. At the same time, another teacher was added to the second grade, due to an increase among children in that grade.

That type of juggling at the 11th hour adds chaos to an already busy time of year for staff, teachers and students.

Last-minute fluctuation in enrollment as school begins is common, said Chuck Yocum, a specialist in student demographic planning for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. But while the scrambling maybe expected, it doesn't lessen the aggravation it causes.

As a result, members of the Jones PTA is using the Internet to help get a head start on enrollment numbers for next school year with an online survey for parents.

Jones parent Jessica Farrar told Patch about the PTA's initiative, which is to survey all families who intend to enroll their children at Jones next year, whether the students are returning or new. Farrar is asking those parents to visit the PTA website at www.jonespta.com and look for the survey links.

Yocum said a survey to parents ahead of time helps the entire school community avoid being caught off-guard on the first day. "It's good to be proactive," he said. "The sooner we get new families enrolled, the better, [the survey] is a good idea."

According to the AACPS website, the state enrollment capacity for Jones is 319 students. Currently the school shows an enrollment of 350 students, with the same projected for next year.

"Jones PTA wants to be sure teachers are fairly allocated to their kids," Farrar said in an email to Patch, noting that the school has the largest first grade in the county with 27 students enrolled.

The PTA is asking families to complete the survey for their youngest child's 2012-2013 grade. For example, if you have an incoming kindergartner, complete the kindergarten survey, if you’ve got a rising second- and fourth-grader, complete the second-grade survey. "But be sure to list all your children who will be attending Jones next year," Farrar wrote in an email.

Yocum said the average class size per the official AACPS guidelines is 25 students for first, second and third grades, 28 for fourth and fifth grade and a ratio of 18 students-to-one teacher for kindergarten. But it can go as high as 22 students for kindergarten, Yocum said.

He added that this is the first time Superintendent Kevin Maxwell has asked for 60 more teachers to be included in the new operating budget.

Jones Principal Sara Pickens also said she thinks the PTA is on the right track with reaching out to the community to introduce the school to new families and urge them to enroll now and not wait until summer.

Citing the PTA's concern about the possible impact of new housing developments nearby, Pickens noted the physical size of the school is smaller than average.

She praised the PTA's effort to get a handle on what the actual numbers will be for next year to help with planning and avoiding the last-minute "domino effect" caused by the shifting in numbers that occurred last August.

"Jones parents are concerned about the burden large classes place on their teachers and kids," wrote Farrar. "Jones is one of the Full Advanced Learner Program implementation schools, meaning that in addition to the new countywide Treasures curriculum, Jones teachers are responsible for learning and implementing several gifted programs in their classrooms, without the talent development resources teachers that the county cut last spring."

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