Schools fight to save construction money Enrollment boom spurs need for more classroom space

March 24, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The "bubble" is coming, the school board warned county commissioners yesterday, and it's full of children.

"We have 4,700 to 5,000 kids coming in the next four to five years," School Superintendent R. Edward Shilling told commissioners at a meeting where school officials tried to save building projects from budget cuts.

In addition to those children who will be new to the system, he said, a "bubble" -- a population boom in elementary grades -- is about to hit Carroll's middle schools, which are becoming overcrowded.

For example, parents of elementary-age children in South Carroll are hoping to pack a meeting with commissioners and state officials March 30.

They want to speed up planning and construction of a new middle school on Oklahoma Road that would ease crowding at Sykesville Middle School.

The school board traditionally meets with county commissioners this time of year to pitch large building-related projects in its capital improvement request for 1993-1994.

Of the school board's list of 19 most critical projects, only six have survived recommendations to the commissioners by Steven Powell, the county budget director. Those represent $6.57 million, including $5 million for New Windsor Middle School construction.

But the school board yesterday told the commissioners it needs another $2 million to plan renovations at Taneytown Elementary School, install air conditioning at Mount Airy Elementary School, upgrade computer systems, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, plan the Oklahoma Road Middle School, and furnish the Winfield and Mechanicsville elementary schools.

"We're not just pushing dollars at you," said Carolyn L. Scott, the board president. "But we have all these children coming up."

School administrators stressed the need for $196,200 for engineering and architectural fees for Taneytown Elementary. Not getting that money would jeopardize state funding for the construction in 1995, they said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said that to get the needed new schools built, the board may have to sacrifice furniture for new sections at Winfield and Mechanicsville elementary schools.

Although the school board's policy has always been to put new furniture in new schools, Mrs. Gouge said it would make more sense to keep using the old furniture so money could be diverted to building more schools.

"We're looking at another hard year," Mrs. Gouge said. "And I'm not sure brand new furniture in a brand new school is realistic."

Mr. Shilling said the furniture from rebuilt schools usually goes into a central storage building in the old Hampstead Elementary School. Principals in older schools use the furniture to replace their broken and outdated pieces.

Principals have been relying on that rotation because the school board has put no money in operating budgets in the past few years to replace furniture and equipment, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

The commissioners did not commit to which projects, if any, they will pay for.

"We will do what we have to do," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy.

Mr. Shilling said that if new schools open without new furniture, when other schools in the past have received new furniture, parents will complain about inequities.

Mrs. Gouge countered that new furniture does not make a big difference in children's education.

"I think parents could live with that as well, as long as they're

satisfied with the education," she said.

"The teacher is what is important."

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