Students stream out of the pods at the start of second lunch. The pods, which house 16 English classrooms, were added in 2016 and 2021 to deal with overcrowding.
Students stream out of the pods at the start of second lunch. The pods, which house 16 English classrooms, were added in 2016 and 2021 to deal with overcrowding.
Eva Fulmer

Too Many People, Too Little Space

Albemarle Needs Another High School, Not Another Center

The first thing I noticed about Albemarle was the sheer amount of people. I knew there was no way that I would ever know them all by name. 

It’s no secret that our school is overcrowded. We are just under 120% capacity and continue to grow each year. This makes our hallways, classrooms and academic lives disorganized and chaotic. 

The most obvious way that overcrowding affects the school is in the hallways. When you have over 2000 kids all trying to get to different places in the same building within six minutes, it creates a human traffic jam. Students can’t get from class to class without being shoved. 

High-traffic areas get so full that entire crowds of students are unable to move. The amount of tardies students collect isn’t shocking to anyone that has spent more than a few minutes in the hallways. All we can do to get through the crowds is wait for them to pass. 

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The Density of AHS vs. Local High Schools and NYC

AHS is the most densely populated high school in the district, allowing around 150 square feet per student. This number seems large until it's compared with the population density of the most densely populated neighborhood in the country, New York City’s Lower East Side. With around 23 million square feet, and 74 thousand people, the Lower East Side has just over 300 square feet of space per person. Click here to interact with the map.

Math teacher Simina Khosravani sees overcrowding making school days emotionally and logistically overwhelming for students 

“I had freshman students who were having difficulty transitioning from class to class, and just not feeling safe,” Khosravani said. “I had to release one kid five minutes earlier so he could calmly transition.”

Her room, 130, is right next to the five-way intersection between the math and history hallways, basement, bus lot and breezeway. 

“When kids are in class listening to lectures, it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ We get distracted because of the noise,” Khosravani said. She says her door is always closed and the blinds are kept down. “It kind of feels like a jail, but I have no option.” 

The density and havoc of the hallways is a safety concern. Can teachers watching from their classrooms truly see what is happening in the middle of these crowds?

“The more people you have in a space, the less control you have over what’s going on,” history teacher Michael Gambino said. “The faster something small can turn into something big, the harder it is to get help.

The Pods (a nicer name for trailers) were meant to be temporary. The 400s pod, built in 2017, already has leaks in the ceilings and broken locks on the bathroom doors. Sure, the pods can hold around 200 kids at a time and are a good short term solution to overcrowding, but we can’t keep building if they are just going to fall apart. 

The last time we had this many students, we built a new school, not a new pod. In the 1997-1998 school year enrollment was 2,034 students, according to the 1998 Peer yearbook. This dropped to 1,542 when Monticello opened that fall. Today, we have 2,025 students and there doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution in sight. 

Construction Plan for Center 2 and replacement parking lots.

In September, ACPS introduced a plan for a new Career Learning Community Center, Center 2, that would be built directly over the AHS student parking lot. According to an article from NBC 29, School Board vice-chair Kate Acuff said this could be a cheaper alternative to building another high school.

“[Centers] have a lot of curb appeal. They have fun names; they look like we’re doing something different and innovative and interesting,” Gambino said, “but I think we need a larger school or another school.”

To aid in the parking spaces lost, there will be an additional 175 parking spots added behind the school on the right side of Lambs Lane, and 100 on the left. While this plan ensures there aren’t any lost parking spaces, it does not account for the amount of chaos that will ensue on Lambs Road and Lambs Lane, which are narrow and the only entrance and exit to the new parking lot. These new parking lots will worsen traffic by forcing students, teachers, parents and buses onto the same short road.

These parking and traffic issues will all be for nothing. The Centers have been largely unpopular, and it’s unlikely that Center 2 will be any different. Center 1 was projected to have 120 students enrolled this year, but they only have 99. 

Students already have a learning community they’re familiar with– their home high school. They don’t want to leave their friends, teachers, and classrooms to go to a smaller building with a couple hundred other students they likely don’t know. 

Center 2 is designed to have 400 students — half of them are projected to be from AHS — but if the enrollment is anything like Center 1, the number of students attending will be far less than the amount of students we are over capacity by. Even if 200 students from AHS enroll in Center 2, we will still be over our 1727 student capacity. 

One of the Career Clusters that Center 2 is supposed to offer, Hospitality and Tourism, doesn’t even have any students enrolled this year. Two other clusters will also be offered. The Math  Engineering Sciences and Entrepreneurship, Business and Innovation clusters have 25 and 24 students enrolled, respectively. Why do we have $36.1 million dollars budgeted for only 49 students? Even if the number tripled by the time Center 2 opens in 2026, there will still be only about 150 students enrolled.

“Even if you look at the projections and Center 2 will alleviate the population here, it’s not going to be done for a few years,” Gambino said. “If they don’t start putting a plan in place for the increased population in the county, we’re going to find ourselves in the exact same spot just a couple years later.”

“If they don’t start putting a plan in place for the increased population in the county, we’re going to find ourselves in the exact same spot just a couple years later.”

— Michael Gambino

What we need is a new school. The Northern area of the county is expanding rapidly, with new neighborhoods being built every couple of months. This area is currently in-district for AHS, and, if a new high school was built alongside the new developments, overcrowding would become an issue of the past. 

“It may be unattractive to dump money into trying to increase the size of your high schools, or to build another school, or to retrofit a commercial space into a school,” Gambino said, “but that clock is ticking.”

ACPS needs to start planning a solution to overcrowding that is suitable for the long term as soon as possible. Students deserve a school that has the time and space for their success.


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About the Contributor
Eva Fulmer
Eva Fulmer, Staff Reporter
Eva (any pronouns) is a junior and in her second year of writing for The Revolution. She is originally from Dawsonville, Georgia and wishes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. Outside of writing, she is a member of the Advanced Women's Ensemble and Varsity Academic Team.

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