Budget Woes Threaten Plan To Eliminate Junior Highs

December 14, 1990|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

The school system's plan to use only middle schools and drop junior high schools throughout the county may be in jeopardy because of budget woes faced by state and county governments.

School board members are working on plans to redistrict students at Meade, Broadneck and Severna Park high schools as part of their ongoing realignment of county schools. The realignment would be kindergarten through fifth grade for elementary, grades six through eight for middle school and nine through 12 for high school.

Anne Arundel County is one of only a few school systems in the state still operating junior high schools, which include grade nine. To carry forth on its plan to convert to all middle schools carries a price tag.

High schools must be enlarged and renovated to accommodate ninth-graders, and in some cases new middle schools will have to be built and old ones renovated for the new students.

Costs for redistricting Meade, Broadneck and Severna Park include $15.2 million to construct a new Meade Area Middle school, plus $175,000 to modify MacArthur Middle to house two separate middle schools while the new school is built.

Another $16.4 million is slated for additions and renovations to Broadneck Senior, so the school can accommodate ninth-graders. The building -- the newest high school in the county -- houses students in grades 10-12 only.

In addition, administrative and instructional costs for the new configuration at Broadneck and establishment of a middle school at Severn River Junior and fine-tuning Magothy River Middle is estimated at $164,000.

Increased transportation costs are estimated at $25,000.

"I am very concerned about fiscal (1992)," School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton said. "Not only for the capital budget, but in providing daily services to all of our children.

"If the state is in the hole and county revenues are down as much as anticipated, there is no way in the world that we will escape being hit by the revenue downturn. I'm not only talking about the things we would like to do and can't, but increased demands with state reforms packages. We have classes with over 30 students in them around the county.

"It's not merely a matter of the additional things," he said, "but the way it's looking, we are very concerned about our capacity to continue to do the things we're now doing. It does not look like it is going to be pleasant."

Despite the financial uncertainties, Lorton said the school system will continue with plans already under way. He is recommending two separate middle schools be established at MacArthur Middle in 1992, until Meade Area Middle is complete. If money is approved in the next capital budget, the school is projected to open in September 1993.

Once the renovations and additions are completed at Broadneck in 1993-1994, ninth-graders living in the Belvedere Elementary school attendance area would attend Broadneck instead of Severna Park Senior.

Magothy River and Severn River Junior then would both be middle schools.

And by 1992, Severna Park Middle would be converted back into a full middle school at a cost of $55,000 -- once construction on Severna Park Elementary is complete and elementary students are able to move back into their building, scheduled for fall 1992. Despite the state's $423 million deficit, $10 million in lost revenue at the county level, $3 million in cuts to county school aid from the state and an $8 million school system deficit, Lorton said planning will continue.

"I have no plans to pull back on recommendations, short of the County Council telling us that they don't have money to do them," Lorton said.

Dates for public hearings on the superintendent's recommendations will be set after Jan. 1.

SUPERINTENDENT'S REDISTRICTING RECOMMENDATIONS

MEADE FEEDER SYSTEM:

Implement middle school program for grades 6-8 in the Meade feeder system effective September 1992. Two middle schools would operate independently at MacArthur Middle until the new Meade Area Middle school is buil Students attending the two middle schools would be divided according to one of the following options, allowing elementary schools to use a K-5 alignment and middle schools grades 6-8:

* Option A

MacArthur Middle: Brock Bridge Elem.,Maryland City Elem., Harman Elem., Jessup Elem.

Meade Area Middle: Manor View Elem., Meade Heights Elem., Pershing Hill Elem., Van Bokkelen Elem.,West Meade Elem.

* OPTION B

MacArthur Middle: Brock Bridge Elem., Maryland City Elem.,Manor View Elem., Pershing Hill Elem., West Meade Elem.

Meade Area Middle: Harman Elem., Jessup Elem., Meade Heights Elem.,Van Bokkelen Elem..

SEVERNA PARK AND BROADNECK FEEDER SYSTEMS:

Grade reorganization to elementary K-5, middle 6-8, is scheduled for 1992 following the completion of the Severna Park Elementary renovation project. If approved, senior high students living in the Belvedere Elementary attendance area will attend Broadneck Senior based on the following schedule contingent upon construction funding to expand Broadneck Senior. Broadneck is scheduled to be completed by 1993. Students in the Belvedere area will attend:

Severna Park Senior: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades 1991-92; 10th, 11th, 12th grades 1992-93; 11th, 12th grades, 1993-94.

Broadneck Senior: 9th, 10th grades 1993-94; 9th, 10th, 11th grades, 1994-95.

Severn River Jr.: 9th grade 1992-93.

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