Charles County School Superintendent James E. Richmond this week presented county commissioners with a five-year financial plan that calls for a new middle school, more than 100 additional teachers and a full-day comprehensive high school.
The initiatives, estimated to cost about $13 million over the five years, are intended to allow the county's public schools to meet performance objectives, or "benchmarks," by 2005. Richmond said he will seek county and state funding.
High on the school system's agenda is preparing for the approaching Maryland high school assessment tests, which students will have to pass before graduating. The end-of-course testing, which will begin with the Class of 2005, has school officials throughout the state worried about whether their students will pass the exams. Charles County school officials say their goal is to have students score well enough to rank in the top half of the state.
Richmond said the high school assessment is one of the biggest problems Maryland schools will face in the next five years. "We can't wait for 2005 to address it," he said.
In order to meet his goal, Richmond said the county's high schools will need 42 additional teachers to reduce class sizes and five coordinators to help teachers with planning and reading instruction. Additional teachers will be required throughout the county, with enrollments expected to grow at least 3.5 percent over the next five years, he said.
"In my view, we can't meet the expectations unless we change something," said John Cox, assistant superintendent for instruction. "This is very high stakes."
By 2005, school officials expect student scores to beat the state averages on the Maryland School Performance and Assessment Program exams average by four points and on the Scholastic Assessment Test by five points. Scores on the California Test of Basic Skills, which quizzes second-, fourth- and sixth-graders on reading, comprehension, language and math skills, should exceed the 60th percentile by then.
School officials also expect that the dropout rate will not exceed 3 percent by 2005 and that 65 percent of students will be accepted at a college or other post-secondary institution.
To meet those objectives, Richmond said the county's middle schools will need 49 additional teachers and the elementary schools 15 additional teachers, especially for science and special education programs.
The comprehensive high school would offer students traditional high school programs as well as full-time career and technology instruction. Currently, students can take a half-day of classes at the Charles County Career and Technology Center and then return to their regular high schools for the rest of their instruction.
"One of the problems with our current setup is that they [the students] have no identity," Richmond said. "There's a lot of lost time in traveling back and forth that could be used for programming."
A middle school for the rapidly growing Berry Road (Route 228) corridor would be built on the same campus as the proposed comprehensive high school, according to Richmond's plan.
The plan also allocates money to expand an alternative school program for students who are disruptive or are considered potentially dangerous.
Other initiatives include updating computer labs and file servers, training staff members, hiring support staff such as middle school secretaries and school psychologists, and renovating schools each year.