Rodgers Forge Parents Concerned Over West Towson Crowding Plans

The PTA there sent out a letter asking for answers from school officials.

Parents at are uneasy about what they fear might be history repeating itself.

In response to word that Baltimore County schools officials were considering an , the Rodgers Forge PTA worries about another round of the overcrowding that led to West Towson Elementary's construction several years ago. As the PTA writes in a letter to its parents:

Rodgers Forge suffered through years of severe overcrowding, with more than 700 students in a school built for 396. We don’t want to see that happen again. We’ve asked [Principal Susan] Deise for details about this plan, but she doesn’t have enough information to provide us with answers. 
Parents, you need to immediately let Baltimore County Public Schools officials know that we are not going back to the days of overcrowding! What did that mean for us? It meant dividers to turn one classroom into two; nine portable classrooms on the playground; “art on a cart” instead of an art room; no computer lab; music class held on the auditorium stage; a portion of the library being turned into a classroom; after-school clubs virtually disappearing; fourth graders being annexed to Dumbarton Middle School—the list goes on.

Later in the letter, parents ask for answers from school officials, including what other plans the school system has in place and how the cap could impact Rodgers Forge.

 opened in 2010, and it was built primarily to relieve overcrowding at Rodgers Forge. The school soon grew ahead of projections, and with no room for trailers at West Towson, school officials have fewer options. If an enrollment cap were to be implemented, those students would have to be sent to other nearby schools. School officials have not yet said how that might work.

johnny towson September 07, 2011 at 04:05 PM
A sustainable voucher-model exists. It is possible to plan and construct adequate school facilities and programs IF we can make room for the private sector in our communities to have more control over public schooling. There are available sites and locations, there is economic support for initial capital, there is demand for increased capacity, there are willing and capable organizations to lead the effort; what is initially absent, is the willingness of our system to allow for private sector involvement. I say, give us a chance. I am ready and willing.
JDStuts September 07, 2011 at 04:41 PM
johnny towson, I think you are confusing the voucher option, most commonly employed in troubled school districts with the Towson issue. The schools in question are all top notch and the demographics of the 21204/12 zip are the direct opposite of the regions voucher programs. Also, there are a fair number of private schools in the area that offer education alternatives. The only participation the private sector can have here is space. Whether any property owner sees fit to plow under Towson Commons and lease the land to the county for a school is unknown. Lacking that, the solution still remains to relocate the Board of Ed to dirt cheap office space somewhere else in the county, probably empty retail space like a grocery store in south east Baltimore County, plow under Greenwood and build a new complex. The other option is to use eminent domain, greatly enhanced by recent Supreme Court decisions, to seize the apartments in Rodgers Forge, tear them down and build a new school. Frankly, the lack of vision by elected officials representing the area is shocking.
johnny towson September 07, 2011 at 05:25 PM
JDS, the voucher program you reference above is perhaps the only program you are familiar with. A voucher (from tax revenue) from the county could be used to offset tuition costs of schooling in any demographic. The principle to question is whether or not the private sector can create and administer a comparable or improved education for the constituents of a specific community. Your examples, i think that is the purpose of your references to Towson Commons and eminent domain, are rather naive and the antithesis of any effort to build a stronger community.
Ravnet September 07, 2011 at 05:48 PM
The easiest and cheapest solution if for the County to close the Bykota Center (old Towson Elementary) and re-open it as an elementary school. It would take minimal renovations, and the elderly people at Bykota could be moved to possibly a new structure where the failed Towson Swim Club was supposed to go. Of course that will never happen because it makes too much sense.
Scott September 07, 2011 at 05:49 PM
There are classrooms available in the end of the wing of the adjacent Ridge Ruxton School, not 50 feet away, that could easily be temporarily annexed for use by WTES.
TowsonMan September 07, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Is seizing Rodgers Forge apartments a real option? That sounds like a great idea, that's a ton of space. Plus the apartments aren't a good match for the rest of the Forge, they have always been kind of junky.
Needaname September 08, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Towson Man - my sentiments exactly ! However, I have a feeling there is a substantial financial investment made by the owners in the apartments and thereby it they would be to expensive to buy and 'plow under.' The 'loss' of the apartments may also reduce the mice and rat population in the Forge.
Josh Glikin September 08, 2011 at 01:21 PM
When will the county realize that their methods for projecting enrollment (which apparently drive their short & long-term planning decisions) are fundamentally flawed? It was dumb to put WTES near capacity to open because it has no expansion room, yet their "proejctions" didn't show it as a problem. They should've eased into it rather than forcing parts of the Forge (yes, I consider Gaywood part of the Forge, as is Yorktowne Drive), including the apartments (where the population is even more dense) to the new school. Of course Forge residents fought tooth & nail for that result. And let's not forget that parents & students at West Towson also dealt with years of overcrowding - Forge residents are not the only victims here. The simple fact is that there is no more room at WTES. Period. And there is at RFES, albeit not in the building. It's simple geography and it appears to be the only solution. Converting BYKOTA to an elementary school is an idea that's been soundly rejected for a long time because of its cost. I wish it were an option but it's just not.
kristin September 08, 2011 at 01:33 PM
good luck getting the State to use eminent domain. as both a lawyer and resident of the rodgers forge apartments, im appalled with the ridiculousness of some of these comments. i highly doubt the State of MD would be willing to pay the management company, who owns all the apartment buildings, a fair market value for their worth and then spend another chunk of money constructing new buildings so that the poor little kids at Rodgers Forge Elementary school do not have to learn their ABC's in a room with a wall divider, god forbid. the comment about the RF apartments not quite "fitting" is both hurtful and absurd. i'm happy you take pride in your neighborhood, but at some point you need to be honest and realize you live in a overcrowded town home community built by some Irishmen in the 20's. i guarantee your child won't be traumatized or learn any less in a trailer. i also guarantee that wiping out the RF apartments would be more of a burden on the county and its residents than any benefit derived from that genius plan. go visit Baltimore city and realize that in a time like this, you need to be thankful for what you have, not wasteful, and AWARE of the fact that children 5 minutes down the road have no idea what its like to be in a school as lucky as Rodgers Forge Elementary.
johnny towson September 08, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Bravo Kristin!
Elizabeth Heubeck September 08, 2011 at 03:52 PM
I was stunned and somewhat appalled by the comments about the Rodgers Forge apartments. Historically, the apartments have been an affordable option for folks who can't afford to buy homes in Towson. They have lent diversity to an otherwise fairly non-diverse area, and I'm sure the residents there would be shocked and hurt to hear someone suggest that their homes simply be plowed over.
Mom in Towson September 08, 2011 at 04:21 PM
since there is no more land available to build on at the WTES/Ridge Ruxton site, has anyone considered adding a second (and third) story to the existing Ridge Ruxton building, perhaps with a connector to the 2nd level of WTES? If you can't build "around"...build "up"!!!
Reggie September 08, 2011 at 06:44 PM
So....when your children attended overcrowded RFES, you fought for a brand new school for them, but now that they're safe and secure in a soon-to-be-capped population, you don't see a problem with a return to overcrowding and the trailers that will result at RFES? Convenient. Also, the RF community promoted the redistricting scenario that they did because every other one divided the neighborhood. Would you want that for your community? Probably not. And finally, had RFES "kept" either the RF Apts. or Gaywood, RFES would have opened in 2010 at 125% capacity, so that was a no-go too.
TowsonMan September 08, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Diversity isn’t necessarily a good thing. Take the county crime log for example, it would suggest that diversity is having a negative effect on Towson.
Ray Vens September 08, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Not to mention the students who live in the apartments now attend West Towson and so don't contribute to the crowding at RFES. Despite their location across the street from RFES, the children living in the apartments were not deemed residents of "historic" Rodgers Forge and so where shipped out.
JDStuts September 08, 2011 at 09:29 PM
No go. Ridge Ruxton is special needs. The work could never be completed in a timely fashion as not to disrupt their schedules. RR and WTES are separate populations.
JDStuts September 08, 2011 at 09:34 PM
A lawyer offering guarantees on education policy. That's rich. Also, the county burden when cost averaged wouldn't be so bad. Typically neighborhoods with solid schools tend to have above average housing values. RF has always maintained a high level of home ownership so the property taxes are a plus mark. Also, Jim Smith was a big proponent of reviving older neighborhoods to decrease sprawl. Plowing under the apts for the school is the logical extension of where such a policy leads.
Needaname September 09, 2011 at 10:32 AM
What is wrong with being Irish ? I would rather be born Irish than choose to be a lawyer.
melanie carrera September 09, 2011 at 05:25 PM
@JDStuts, Are you certain about the timeframe? Has anyone actually asked a construction company if they could do such work over the summer? A second story addition is hardly as disruptive as groundbreaking. I realize RR is special needs. Unless they attend school all summer, which they might, I'm not sure what that has to do with potential construction.
JDStuts September 09, 2011 at 08:18 PM
Generally a retrofit takes longer than new construction and always greatly impacts the current structure. There is ground breaking if the current structure can't support the loads of the new structure. Then HVAC, electrical, plumbing have to tie in or co-exist with existing systems. At best, you'd have to start in summer and stop for the school year. Project management wise that's really difficult since what you build still has to be year round weather tight when it goes dormant. Also, depending on how the bonds are floated most finance companies like to have project deadlines which makes it easier to manage cash flow and pay contractors/suppliers. Everyone involved will burn a lot of calories. It's a last resort and completely unnecessary when you can demolish Greenwood next door and build new. Plus the jobs stimulus benefits the county short term.
East Side Advocate September 14, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Careful for what you wish for and careful for what we let them get away with. The screaming associations of the GTCCA politically pressured the Smith Administration to build a school to relieve the over crowded Rogers Forge. Once they got the school, they politically fought redistricting to make sure their communities weren't disrupted. The communities south of Rodgers Forge had to give up walking 3 blocks to school to drive north to their new school, while those north of RF got to stay and the president of the West Towson Association somehow got to leave her kid in the ''criminally' overcrowded Hampton Elementary adding to its overcrowding instead, of moving into their new West Towson Elementary. And now were spending millions more to expand Hampton. Criminal was one of the terms used to describe overcrowded schools while spending over $30 million dollars of our tax money. We should spend money when we need to spend money but it's time to stop letting the loud mouth hypocrites have so much say. It's no wonder that the the people of Towson were wise enough to have elected a level headed young man from the east side to represent them on the County Council. Before we spend any more unnecessary money, let's take a real look at real redistricting, to level out our school populations in the whole county and not just in the Towson area elementary schools.
Bart September 14, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Many of the schools in the Towson area are STILL terribly overcrowded. This problem should have been addressed years ago. I live in Towson, and worked very hard for David Marks to be elected, and I don't care WHERE he came from. He has done a wonderful job for ALL the citizens of the 5th District. We in Towson also had a County Councilperson from the "East Side" previous to Mr. Marks. That was Vince Gardina, also from Perry Hall, who didn't give Towson the attention it deserved. No matter how one would like to twist the facts, more and more families with children are moving unto the older neighborhoods of Towson, and those families, also citizens of Baltimore County must have their basic needs filled. They are taxpayers, too.


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