Education, Family, Opinion, Politics

Councilman Marks: Inside the decades-long legislation to reduce school overcrowding

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The following is an update from Baltimore County Fifth District Councilman David Marks.

This month, schoolchildren throughout Baltimore County will complete classes, and educators will earn a well-deserved break for a few weeks. I was fortunate to attend several graduation ceremonies and farewell assemblies, and congratulate many of these students personally.

It was fitting, then, that the Baltimore County Council passed sweeping legislation that will fundamentally improve schools by ensuring that development does not overwhelm our existing campuses.

On June 3rd, the Baltimore County Council passed a major reform of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The passage of this legislation represents work over more than a decade to reduce school overcrowding and improve the learning environment for our children. Among other provisions, the bill reduces the threshold by which a school is considered overcrowded. It eliminates the “adjacent exemption” that some have used to build in overcrowded school districts, and it creates a new intergovernmental panel designed to review development proposals.

I have worked on the school overcrowding issue for more than two decades, first as a volunteer in the Perry Hall Improvement Association, and then as an elected official.

Immediately upon my election to the Baltimore County Council, I began working with community leaders and my partners at the local and state levels to jumpstart school construction projects. In the northeast, we celebrated the opening of Honeygo Elementary School in 2018 and Rossville Elementary School in 2022. This fall, Nottingham Middle School will open on King Avenue. That project, along with an expanded Pine Grove Middle School, will help reduce overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle.

These projects are working—data from Baltimore County Public Schools shows declining enrollment in many schools.

We also made thoughtful zoning and development decisions. In each of the last three rezoning cycles, dozens of acres of land have been downzoned. We have supported senior-restricted housing that does not overwhelm our schools, and helps accommodate the 25 percent of Baltimore County’s population that represents this oldest part of our population.

Discussions about the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance have occurred for many years, and they accelerated with the creation of a task force in 2020. I can assure you that every perspective was given a thorough review, and there was ample opportunity for all stakeholders to comment. It would be unfortunate for the County Executive to veto the APFO legislation.

In closing, I would like to thank the parents and community leaders who worked with our office over many years on the school overcrowding effort. Their work is appreciated and will result in a better learning environment for all of Baltimore County’s children.

Photo via Pixabay

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