An unused Anne Arundel County school is being readied as a reception and processing center in the event that thousands of American civilians now in the Middle East are evacuated.
Under a contingency plan, the old Lindale Junior High school in Ferndale could be used to process "repatriates" arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Andrews Air Force Base, said David McMillion, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
Those two Maryland airports, along with five others on the East Coast, have been selected to receive 30,000 to 40,000 people if an evacuation is ordered, he said. The evacuees might include stranded tourists, Americans living abroad and spouses of foreign citizens, he said.
McMillion said evacuees could be received as early as tomorrow. "It's depending on what's happening in the Mideast with the war."
A State Department official, however, said no evacuation is currently being planned. "There are always contingency plans, but we have no plan to evacuate Americans this weekend or next weekend from the Middle East," the official said.
A similar evacuation of repatriates occurred in September at BWI. Then, the evacuees were placed temporarily in BWI area hotels and at a homeless shelter at the Fort George G. Meade Army base in western Anne Arundel County.
But, because of increased security measures at the airport, repatriates will not be allowed to stay at BWI, said Robert Gould, a Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman. Once the evacuees clear customs and immigration, they will be offered a ride to nearby Lindale where they will receive shelter, food or financial aid if needed, Gould said.
McMillion said they also might be given airline tickets to return to their home states.
School officials said only the school's cafeteria and a few adjacent rooms are expected to be used. The federal government, which is picking up the tab for the repatriation, will reimburse the county school system for the cost of the operation.
While it is not known when, or even if, the school will have to accept evacuees, the school could be ready to receive citizens within a matter of hours, Gould said. Evacuees would be assisted by an array of state and federal agencies as well as by volunteer groups such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
The duration of the war in the Persian Gulf will determine how long the facility at Lindale will remain in existence, said Ronald L. Beckett, assistant superintendent for support services.
However, the temporary use of the school will not affect its conversion into North County High School, which is expected to open in September 1993.