Maryland’s public school enrollment hit a record high of nearly 880,000 students this school year, with school systems along the Baltimore-Washington corridor largely driving the surge, according to new figures.
There was a one-year spike of more than 5,000 students statewide, with most growth concentrated in the school systems in Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, according to the state report.
“We’re in uncharted territory with our enrollment increases,” said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the State Department of Education, noting steady upticks since 2008. For several years before that, enrollment was dipping, Reinhard said.
Since 2008, enrollment in Maryland’s public schools has climbed by 35,740 students.
In the past year, Howard County showed the sharpest growth on a percentage basis — 2.2 percent — and Montgomery, the state’s largest school system, saw the largest number of additional students, according to state numbers.
Montgomery’s enrollment numbers — which vary slightly from state data — show a total student population of 156,447 this year, an increase of nearly 2,600 from last year’s 153,852.
“For us, it’s the eighth year of enrollment increases of over 2,000 per year — so that’s a lot of growth,” said Bruce Crispell, director of long-range planning for Montgomery schools. “It’s more than any other jurisdiction in Maryland by far.”
Crispell projects that the school system will grow by an additional 10,000 students during the next six years. The district’s rising enrollment reflects trends in birthrates, family migration into Montgomery and more populated grades of younger students aging up through the school system, Crispell said.
Judith Docca, vice president of Montgomery’s school board, noted that the system is experiencing other changes as it grows. “We’ve been getting many more students who have more needs, particularly language needs and other academic needs,” she said.
According to Montgomery data, more than 54,000 students in the suburban district receive free and reduced-price meals — an increase of more than 53 percent since 2007. The number of English language learners in Montgomery is up almost 39 percent over the same period, to 22,270 students.
The state numbers are part of a recently released 25-page report on enrollment in Maryland districts this school year.
The figures show enrollment in Prince George’s up by 1,360 students this year, to 128,936.
Prince George’s school officials expect modest yearly enrollment increases through 2022, a district spokeswoman said, as a result of factors including births, international migration and the change in compulsory age of attendance, which was raised from 16 to 17 last year.
Elsewhere along the Baltimore-Washington corridor, Baltimore County’s enrollment increased to 111,138, Howard County’s hit 54,870 and Anne Arundel’s reached 80,387, the report showed.
Across Maryland, state officials said the racial and ethnic composition of student population is changing markedly.
Over the past five years, the number of Hispanic students has increased by 37,000 statewide and the number of Asian students by nearly 7,000. But the number of African American students has dipped by 3,000 and the number of white students by more than 21,000, according to state officials.
White students are the largest group statewide, representing 39 percent of enrollment. Black students account for 34 percent, Hispanic students for 15.5 percent and Asian students for 6 percent.