School board responds to Aberdeen complaints

May 03, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff writer

Although some Aberdeen residents believe their public schools are being shortchanged by the education system, county officials say the schools are not treated differently from any others. In workshops conducted in February to determine residents' views of the city's needs, Aberdeen student government leaders and business owners said they believe that Aberdeen schools do not get a fair share of subsidies and maintenance compared to other schools in the county.

"The parents and teachers in Aberdeen do have legitimate concerns," said Dr. Ray R. Keech, superintendent of the Harford County Board of Education. But, he said, money for building repairs and new materials is limited.

Part of the preliminary report's findings, which will be released officially in the fall, was based on a synopsis of comments made by Aberdeen residents at community workshop meetings. The meetings included teachers, students, parents and business leaders.

The report, prepared by the Timonium-based consulting firm of Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani, was requested by the city to help it plan future growth and development. It covered a variety of topics, including education.

While Aberdeen schools do have maintenance and equipment needs, Keech said, the county's priority is to build new schools to accommodate the county's burgeoning student population.

About five years ago there were 28,000 students. Today, there are nearly 33,000 school-age residents, and that number is expected to grow to 42,000 by 1997, said school administrators.

One of the complaints cited about Aberdeen schools was roofing in need of repair.

"Leaking roofs are not acceptable. If we had the funds, we would start repairing them today," Keech said. He said Aberdeen schools also need new equipment and textbooks, but added that the same is true for the county's other older schools.

Leaking roofs are a problem in many county schools built in the 1950s and 1960s because of flat roof construction, said George D. Lisby, president of the county Board of Education.

"Because the roofs are flat, water stands on them," he said. "New schools have been built with peaked roofs to alleviate this problem."

The roof at the Hall's Cross Roads Elementary School in Aberdeen will be replaced this summer, said Albert F. Seymour, executive director of information and publications for the county Board of Education.

Lisby said it is possible that Aberdeen residents perceive their schools as worse off than others because the schools are older and because new schools have not been built in Aberdeen.

Most of the county's new schools are being built along the Route 24 and Route 40 corridors, where new development is occurring.

New schools are not planned in the Aberdeen area because there has been no large influx of new students, Seymour said.

School officials said subsidies for Aberdeen students are comparable to those for other schools. Some Aberdeen teachers and parents believe the town should receive more money for schools because of the many military families based at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

One of the concerns of residents, as noted in the educational update section of the comprehensive preliminary plan, was that "Aberdeen should receive the vast majority of federal money" because "almost all the federally connected families are in the Aberdeen school district."

The federal government contributed nearly $2 million in so-called "impact aid" to the county school system, according to 1990-1991 figures, said Seymour.

"That money goes into the total county school budget," he said. "It is allocated by the federal government to help within an area where property taxes are not collected.

"That means taxes don't have to increase disproportionately because of the presence of a military installation."

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