Overcrowded, Under-funded Schools Seek New Solutions

Rehrmann Panel Expects Influx Of 9,000 New Students By 1996

September 29, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

How many county students would support going to school year round?

How many taxpayers would back the county's putting up $108 million to build new schools in the hope that the state would kick in its share later?

How many parents wouldn't object to their children's being bused to less-crowded schools?

These were some of the ideas floated by astate official Thursday during the first meeting of a panel appointed by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann to find ways to accommodate the surge of students into county schools without bankrupting Harfordgovernment.

Rehrmann established the panel after warning that theschool board's six-year plan would exceed Harford's annual $14 million limit on borrowing.

Yale Stenzler, executive director of the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction, offered the threecontroversial suggestions after he warned the 26-member panel that state aid will be hard to get as Maryland's budget collapse worsens.

The county Board of Education might have to extend its six-year, $108-million plan to build space for more than 9,000 new students projected by 1996, said Stenzler, who administers state support for local school construction.

"There might have to be some overcrowding while the next school is being built," he said.

Stenzler offered no new construction or financing alternatives for the county to consider.But panel members were intrigued by savings Baltimore County expectsfrom allowing developers to lease public land to build schools, which are then leased back to the county.

"We're not going to be able to solve all of the school problems of Harford County this year," said Forest Hill Bank senior vice president Raymond Hamm, who heads the committee.

But, he said, the county should explore building largerschools with more use of portable classrooms.

In a unanimous voteSept. 17, the County Council endorsed the school board's request forthe IAC to support a $12 million school expansion program for fiscalyear 1993, which begins July 1, 1992.

Rehrmann asked Stenzler to promise that the state won't eliminate all construction support next year, as a letter he sent to local school districts Sept. 5 said might happen.

Stenzler said the IAC is working on the assumption that the Board of Public Works will agree to sell $60 million in state bonds for schools next year. But, he said, the $6.2 million the county seeks will have to compete with requests from other counties and Baltimore that total $200 million statewide.

If the IAC approves the council request, the county would have to commit more than $5.8 millionto build elementary schools in Belcamp and Bel Air.

The council also voted to build another elementary school in the Forest Lake area and an addition to Bel Air Middle School -- which would require almost $575,000 in planning money from the county. The projects require nostate aid next year, but planning must be approved by the IAC.

The Harford school board also is seeking state money for portable classrooms to help cope with overcrowding.

The request for state aid does not commit the county next year to school board proposals to buy asite for a middle school and high school in the Abingdon area, roof repairs at four schools, a new gym for C. Milton Wright High and a new school board headquarters.

The board is seeking support for 11 other schools to make room for a 29-percent increase in the student body expected by 1996.

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