WJ To Be Third Largest School In the County

Ku Jung

As the historic school year with record-breaking blizzards comes to an end, another interesting record is about to be set for next year: WJ will become the third biggest school in the county, trailing Blair and Wootton High Schools.

 

The increase, however, will coincide with the budget cuts proposed by the Board of Education that will affect every school in the county. One result of the budget cuts will be cutting down the number of teachers in each school, a difficult decision for most. In WJ, the influx of new students will help even out the process of hiring additional teachers or transferring them, resulting in no cuts.

One cause was the growth of students previously enrolled in private schools coming back to enroll in public high schools.

“Most of it is just students who are growing up in our neighborhoods,” said Principal Chris Garran. “Students are coming up right through our middle schools. So there are families who live in our neighborhoods that are now just getting high school students.”

Superintendent Jerry Weast proposed increasing class sizes in order to cut down on the budget, along with other proposals. This will result in losing approximately a teacher for every 500 students , about four at WJ, which currently holds 2,072 students. However, the school also gains a teacher for every 20 students of increased enrollment in a school. The school will increase enrollment by 80 to 90 students the upcoming year, evening out the loss and gain.

“The reality is because of the budget cuts, even though we’re having this increase in student enrollment, we are not going to get any additional teachers,” said Garran. “We will not receive staff to work with those students, so we will use our current faculty to serve just some larger classes next year.”

Garran also pointed out that such increase was a trend that has been observed for years.

“When [families] are looking for homes and when they are looking for neighborhoods in which to raise their children, this shows that they are interested in the WJ community, the neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of times, parents vote with their real estate purchases on the schools that they like and what this says to me is that more and more families are interested in Walter Johnson High School and in our cluster schools.”

Other than the staff issue, no foreseeable changes are seen from the increase of students.

“I anticipate that we will go over 2,100 students [by next year], but we will have a better idea after the summer because we will do our private school enrollments in the summer,” Garran said. “Down the road, I do not anticipate that we will grow significantly beyond 2200 students or so.”

In an email to the staff, Garran assured them that there will be no cuts and they should take the time to relax.

“While the budget situation in MCPS is truly challening, we will continue to work in order to minimize the impact on Walter Johnson and our with students,” he said.

REPORTER STEFANY CARTY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.

 

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