Jam-Packed: Oakdale Experiences Soar in Student Population

Students+fill+the+hallways+at+Oakdale+High+School%2C+as+they+leave+at+the+end+of+the+school+day.

Rhiannon Evans

Students fill the hallways at Oakdale High School, as they leave at the end of the school day.

With the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Oakdale High School is opening its doors to welcome more than 1600 students. This is a sizable increase from last year’s 1400 student population, and this increase can be felt in every classroom.

Oakdale’s growth comes at a much faster rate than originally predicted during the 2019 Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana (LOU) Redistricting Study. The redistricting was originally meant to help alleviate Urbana’s large population, and hopefully hold the population at 1700 students, the population in 2019. However, the very next school year, Urbana’s population skyrocketed, reaching 1900 students, which wasn’t projected to happen until 2025.

The study didn’t just fall short with Urbana, however. According to the study, Oakdale wasn’t supposed to hit the 1600 student population threshold until the 2025 school year. It’s clear the study was a little off with those predictions.

The growth at Oakdale creates a plethora of problems. Larger class sizes can make it harder for students to focus, there’s less opportunity for one-on-one instruction for students who may need extra help, and with more students in a classroom there are bound to be more distractions.

With these issues becoming more present, students and parents are calling on the county to do something. Luke Penny, a senior at Oakdale, voices his concerns: “The county should definitely do something eventually. As time goes on, it will only get worse.”

The county has to consider many different factors when it comes to deciding the districts for the schools in the county. Frederick County Public School Chief Operating Officer(COO), Dr Paul Lebo, explained, “Given the current numbers, it’s not justifiably [to build another school] from a state perspective. While eight of our ten high schools are over capacity, you really need to have a significant amount of capacity challenges to open another 1600 student high school.”

This is a factor many students and parents fail to consider when voicing their disapproval of the overcrowded schools. While yes, Oakdale is technically over capacity currently, it’s only by around 10%. In fact, this is a trend seen across all of the overcrowded schools throughout the county- while they are overcrowded, in the grand scheme of things, it’s only by a small amount.

However, Lebo assures that there are plans in the future to build a new high school to alleviate the growing populations. He adds that the county recognizes all of the growth coming into the eastern central part of Frederick County from families moving to the county in droves, but employees at Central Office are keeping an eye on it.

In fact, “The Board [of Education] has a policy about school size, but The Board has entertained larger schools when felt necessary,” Lebo adds.  A good example of this is Waverly Elementary School, in Western Frederick City, that opened in August, 2022, with a capacity of 1900 students, far surpassing the standard 700 student capacity for elementary schools.

I think it’s positive, I think it’s good to expose students to many different cultures, especially in a learning environment.”

— Luke Penny

Still, a growing student population does come with a lot of positives. Oakdale is more diverse than ever, with students coming from many different backgrounds and cultures. Penny expresses, “I think it’s positive, I think it’s good to expose students to many different cultures, especially in a learning environment.”

While Oakdale might be a little tight on elbow room, the growth in population isn’t the worst thing in the world. The county is keeping an eye on the school populations throughout the county, and students can count on them to take action before it starts to get bad. In the meantime, Oakdale students should get to know the many new faces they see around the school because they might just find some great friends among them.