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Anyone who can figure out the calculations used to determine school enrollment capacity figures for Harford County should be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Creative Math.

Consider first off that enrollment in Harford County Public Schools has been declining, slowly but steadily, for years.

Then there’s the reality that, even before the Red Pump school was built, there was a whole elementary school worth of empty seats in elementary schools across the county; though some are grossly overcrowded, others practically have tumbleweeds rolling down the hallways.

But wait! What constitutes capacity? Well, we know a gallon jug holds 128 ounces, so a school with a set number of classrooms should have the same capacity every year, right?

Not in Maryland. The state reevaluates school capacity from time to time, and depending on how classrooms are labeled, the capacity of a school can be changed, even if the school is exactly the same.

So what kind of math went into making the decision to go from having one elementary school worth of empty seats to having two elementary schools worth of empty seats?

Well, there’s BRAC, a reason (some might say excuse) behind just about every public policy decision made in the past several years. Harford County Public Schools shouldn’t be faulted for jumping on that spending bandwagon, though it seems a bit incongruous that the schools with the most available space for more students are the ones closest to Aberdeen Proving Ground and, presumably, the BRAC jobs.

The one answer that seems to come up no matter how you configure the numbers is that there’s an underlying desire to make sure students from high end neighborhoods aren’t forced to mingle with people of lesser economic means.

This kind of segregation is not only wrong, but also is very expensive. The $21 million-plus Harford County is spending on Red Pump Elementary School and the related (regardless of what school and county officials say) infrastructure upgrades would have translated into a tax break of $84 for every man, woman and child in the county.

Given the enrollment realities and demographic trends of an aging population and smaller families in Harford County and across the country, there’s no reason to build another new school in Harford County anytime in the foreseeable future.

Unless, of course, you think segregating neighborhoods of different economic levels is a good reason to waste millions more of our tax dollars.

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