Schaefer cuts school funds 'gross misunderstanding,' Dubel says

January 25, 1992|By Larry Carson

The governor has withdrawn money approved for a new elementary school in Jacksonville, apparently miffed that Baltimore County officials changed priorities after he visited nearby Sparks Elementary and vowed to do something about overcrowding there.

"The Jacksonville project is on life support," said Paul E. Schurick, chief of staff to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who had promised money to expand Sparks Elementary during a visit to the school in August 1990.

"He made a commitment to very frustrated parents to provide funds for Sparks," Mr. Schurick said. "Now, 18 months later, he gets a list and there's no Sparks on it. This was poorly handled by the county."

School Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel said a "gross misunderstanding" led the governor to withdraw $2.6 million that had been approved for Jacksonville Elementary by the state Interagency Committee on School Construction.

The action was taken at Wednesday's meeting of the state Board of Public Works.

The county changed its construction priorities after the governor's visit when local and state environmental officials determined that the Sparks school, built in 1909, could not be enlarged because of inadequate sewage facilities.

Instead, the county decided to build a new school at Jacksonville that would take about 200 students from Sparks. A second elementary would be built in north county, and the remaining students from Sparks would be sent there while the old building was renovated for use as a small elementary.

No site has been found for the second north county elementary, but the county has long owned land for a school at Jacksonville.

"The Sparks community and PTA are fully in support of Jacksonville," Dr. Dubel said, adding that all of this had been known to the school construction committee.

"Everybody understood except the guy who made the commitment," Mr. Schurick said.

He spoke just after a meeting between Governor Schaefer and a disturbed state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-8th, who tried to convince the governor to restore the money for Jacksonville, which is in Mr. Bromwell's district.

"I am really miffed at all this," an angry Mr. Bromwell said later. "I talked to him. I pleaded with him." The senator said he will try to get County Executive Roger B. Hayden and school officials to meet with the governor.

County schools planner James Kraft said there are 441 students at Sparks, which uses four portable classrooms and rooms rented in a nearby church to accommodate them all. The school capacity is 286.

The county has already appropriated $6.2 million for the planned 750-student Jacksonville school, which was to begin construction in 1992 and open in 1994.

The denial of state funding for Jacksonville, Mr. Kraft said, would leave the county with only $600,000 in state money for school construction this year. That money is for a new roof on Franklin Senior High.

Ironically, the state school construction committee had earlier rejected two county requests for money to renovate and expand Sparks.

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