Trotter Road residents who want the western high school built somewhere else are scheduled to take their case to a state administrative law judge today.
The judge is scheduled to hear arguments about the50-acre site between Route 108 and Trotter Road. The residents groupand a Columbia business want the state Board of Education to order the county board to go through the site selection process again.
"The school board (members) are good, hard-working people who care about kids, and I hate to say anything negative about them. But we just think this was a little short-sighted," said Nancy Parlette, president of the Trotter Road Citizens Association.
The association and Columbia Memorial Park, a cemetery on Route 108 adjoining Clarksville Elementary, plan to argue that the school should be farther west,that the building will not fit on the existing property, and that a high school is incompatible with an elementary school and a cemetery.
"I don't understand the appeal. We've done everything they asked," said board vice chairman Dana F. Hanna. The board moved the plannedbuilding from the Trotter Road end of the property to Route 108 in response to residents' concerns, he said.
The state school board lacks legal authority to overturn the county board's site choice, but can order the selection process to be repeated if the state finds thatthe local board acted arbitrarily, unreasonably or illegally.
If the state board decides to conduct a hearing after receiving the administrative judge's findings, the process might delay construction of the school.
Construction is scheduled to start in July. The state board probably could not schedule a hearing before June or July, saidRonald A. Peiffer, the state Education Department's public information officer.
However, Sydney L. Cousin, associate superintendent for finance and administration, said he expected the state board to hear the case in May or June.
Cousin said he is confident that the state will endorse the county board's actions.
"There is no substance to the points being raised," he said. "It either has to be on procedural or substantive grounds, and I haven't seen either."
Aelred "Al" Geis, a Trotter Road resident opposed to the site, contends that the school should be farther west. "It's supposed to serve western Howard County, but it's no more than four miles from Wilde Lake and Atholton (high schools)," he said.
Hanna counters by drawing a triangle on the map linking Atholton, Glenelg and Centennial high schools, the three schools promised relief from overcrowding by the western high school.
"Where would you locate a school to accommodate (them)?In the middle of that triangle. Come on, guys, use your brains," he said.
Hanna said high school activities will not disturb gravesideservices because Clarksville Elementary lies between the playing fields and the section of the cemetery now in use.
"There's no way that would ever impact, except that you might hear some noise off in the distance, but it wouldn't be any more than a truck on Clarksville Pike," he said.
The school board must buy 6 or 7 additional acres from Howard Research and Development to fit the building on the site.
The development arm of the Rouse Co. donated the original tract but wants compensation for the additional acreage, which will come out of the planned village of River Hill.
Opponents also questioned whether public utilities will be available when the school opens.
Cousin said the school system will install sewer lines and the county Public Works Department will put in water lines.
Most of the estimated $500,000 cost will be reimbursed by Howard Research and Development as development proceeds, with the school system eventually bearingonly the cost of the extra capacity required for the system to servethe high school, he said.