Baltimore Co. to test modular classrooms Additions viewed as replacements for portable units.

January 10, 1992|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff *B

The Baltimore County school board has approved a plan to test permanent modular school additions as an alternative to portable classrooms at overcrowded schools.

In making changes to the schools' capital spending plan last night, the board allotted $739,000 for a modular addition at Hillcrest Elementary School. The addition could be ready as early as September, 1992.

Hillcrest, with an official capacity of 510 students, now houses more than 700.

The impetus for the changes in next year's $19.3 million capital budget, first approved in August, is an additional $2.6 million state grant for the new Jacksonville Elementary School, scheduled to open in September.

Since the board had already set aside money for the Jacksonville construction, the state grant frees up funds for a permanent modular addition at Hillcrest.

The county's school facilities task force is anxious to investigate permanent modular construction as a fast, inexpensive way to solve the overcrowding problems. Modular additions also have the advantage of being connected directly to the school. Portable classrooms, which the county is currently using, are free-standing.

"I think everyone is anxious to produce seats for kids," said James E. Kraft, planner for the school system. "And we certainly would be remiss if we didn't try a new approach."

One question, he said, is whether the modular additions will last long enough under the wear and tear of active youngsters to make them cost-effective.

"We're excited about it, we want to give it a chance and see how it works. If we can build classrooms quicker and cheaper we certainly want to try it," he says. "But we're being cautious . . . we want it to last."

Officials also plan to build a new elementary school in Mays Chapel, which would open in 1995. The Jacksonville and Mays Chapel schools would relieve crowding at Sparks, Warren, Carroll Manor, Pot Spring and Pinewood elementary schools.

Lutherville Elementary, which closed in 1983 because of low enrollment, would reopen in September 1992 to relieve crowding at Hampton, Lutherville/Timonium, Riderwood and Rodgers Forge elementary schools.

Sudbrook Middle School, which was closed in 1981, would reopen in September 1993, after Milford Mill High students return to their renovated school next year.

Now the budget goes to the county executive, who is to submit it to the County Council in April.

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