Budget prompts cry for simpler, cheaper schools

October 02, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Howard County residents called for "no-frills" schools and citizens' advisory committees during a public hearing last night on a proposal to spend $250 million for public school construction, renovations, and additions over the next 10 years.

About 50 people attended the hearing at the Board of Education building, about half of them taking three-minute stands at the microphone to urge that the school board consider cost-saving measures in building design.

"We should give up frills and build basic schools," said Lynn Benton, chairwoman of the legislative committee for the Howard County PTA Council.

Ms. Benton asked the board to build multi-story schools and adopt a basic architectural design for elementary, middle, and high schools to cut engineering and design costs.

Speakers also proposed forming citizens' advisory committees to help the board develop cost-saving measures in construction and school administrative policies.

"We need to look at the school system and reduce costs without reducing quality," said Guy Harriman, a board member of the zTC Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

Speakers from the southeastern portion of the county praised the plan, which includes additional classroom space at Bollman Bridge Elementary to accommodate 180 more students, three new southeastern elementaries and a new middle school by 1999.

"We will continue to need more buildings in the southeast," said Donna Thewes, PTA president of Laurel Woods Elementary, which is projected to be 55 students over its capacity next year.

"Schools that become overcrowded cannot perform as well as those that are not," Ms. Thewes said. "Children are cheated by postponing or cutting programs."

The 32,800-student school system is expected to gain 13,751 more pupils by the year 2003.

But some schools in the county have sagging enrollment.

"Bring us your tired, weary, relocated children," said Gene Shipp, a member of the Wilde Lake High School PTA executive board.

Wilde Lake is scheduled for a 54,000-square-foot building expansion with a 1997 completion date, and an increase in enrollment from the current 820 to an eventual 1,200.

Speakers also commented on the fiscal 1994 operating budget, which will be presented to the board by Superintendent Michael E. Hickey in January.

Rosemary Mortimer, chairwoman of the School Health Council, asked the school board to increase funding and to expand the school system's health curriculum.

"We would ask you to remember that prevention of illness saves us much more money than curing the problem once it appears," Ms. Mortimer said.

"Expanding the health curriculum will aid in preventing illness and easily could have the side effect of increasing our attendance rates," she said.

James E. Coolahan Jr., community affairs chairman of the Resurrection-St. Paul Home and School Association, urged the board to restore budget cuts to the public school bus program that also serves parochial school children.

The school board is scheduled to vote Oct. 8 on the 1994 capital budget and long-range capital improvement plans.

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