Putting 9th-graders In High School: Broadneck Catch-22

New Building Needed, But State Funds Denied Until Vacancies Filled

January 11, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

In a rare show of unity, most parents and school officials agree that ninth-graders belong in high schools, not in junior high schools with eighth-graders.

School system planners are trying to apply that consensus throughout the county -- a goal they have been struggling to achieve for years. But at Broadneck High, both time and money seemto be working against them.

The Board of Education says it will not be able to put ninth-graders into Broadneck until the school is enlarged. And state officials say they will not approve money for construction as long as 500 vacant seats remain at nearby Magothy River Middle and Severn River Junior High schools.

Mike Raible, director of planning and construction for the school system, said those seats won't fill for another five years, when high elementary enrollments reach the middle schools.

"We're taking the position that we don't want ninth-graders in the Magothy and Severn complex," Raible said, "but the state sees it as the seats are already there. They are feeling this is less viable than some other projects."

All of which jeopardizes the county's plan fora consistent K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade organization. Severn River houses students in grades 8-9, Magothy in grades 6-8.

Much of Broadneck's problem can be traced to the school's construction. Opened in 1982, Broadneck was built much smaller than school officials and parents would have liked. Money for construction projects from the state haddwindled by the time plans for Broadneck were drawn, and state guidelines allowed for larger class sizes than those used by the county.

Some extra classroom space was obtained by using state money earmarked for the school's auditorium. In 1988, an auditorium finally was added to the school -- at county expense.

Linda Egloff, former PTA president at Broadneck Senior, has been fighting for money for school expansion for years. Now her son is a senior at what remains the newest high school in the county, a school where students in grades 10-12 spend some of their time in portable classrooms because of the lackof space.

Despite space limitations, the school has established atrack record of accomplishments, including a high number of studentsin advanced-placement and gifted and talented programs.

"It was poor planning," Egloff said of Broadneck's plight. "Everything in the school is too small. The addition isn't going to happen overnight. I certainly think it should happen as soon as it can."

Meanwhile, the board is proceeding with proposals for redistricting schools in theBroadneck feeder system, contingent upon state funding to enlarge the high school.

At a school board meeting Monday, board members voted to schedule public hearings for next month on their plan to have students from Belvedere Elementary move from Severna Park High to Broadneck, and to move ninth-graders into the high school.

"We're always playing catch-up at Broadneck," Egloff said. "I feel it's just a matter of time before the school is at capacity or overcrowded. We've been up that stream before."

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