Gym is filled to make case for new school Sykesville Middle crowding is shown

March 31, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

About 500 people simulated the crowding at Sykesville Middle School last night as they filled the gymnasium to capacity.

They came to tell county and state officials they wanted Oklahoma Road Middle School built in South Carroll as soon as possible. And they had packed the gymnasium on purpose, in order to demonstrate the crowded conditions at the school.

"What are your projections for new home construction in South Carroll, which could soon become the population center of the county?" asked Robert Martz. "Do you plan any limits for overcrowding in the schools?"

Nearly 1,000 children in grades six through eight -- 100 above capacity -- attend class in the building that the county calls "severely inadequate."

The audience applauded as Mr. Martz said most parents are willing "to put out dollars to get the schools we need."

Others asked the County Commissioners to use impact fees to pay for the new school, estimated to cost $12 million.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said the $2,700 impact fee would have to be raised to about $10,000 to pay for all the new education projects.

"That is peanuts to local builders who are putting up $300,000 homes," said Martha Hooper. "Don't sacrifice our children to developers. Either build a middle school or don't allow any more people in."

Ms. Hooper's fifth-grade son has spent his entire school career inside portable classrooms at Eldersburg Elementary. She said she fears he will still be in a portable classroom next year.

"We have been fighting this problem here for over 20 years," said Barbara Tate, whose grandchildren are in elementary school. "How many pieces of land do we own in this area?"

The question elicited applause and an explanation of the county's land-banking policy.

"Sell some of that land and help us out here," said Ms. Tate.

The state has denied the county planning approval three times for the proposed Oklahoma Road Middle School on a 20-acre lot north of Liberty Road. In June, the county will repeat its request for the project -- 65 percent of which would be built with state funds.

Yale Stenzler, executive director of the state's Interagency Committee, said enrollment projections don't warrant building a new school.

"Based on the numbers, we are at the same point now as last year," he said. "If we were 50 to 100 students away from the totals, we might be closer."

Without a new school, Sykesville Middle's enrollment would reach 1,170 students, 300 over its capacity within four years, said Kathleen Sanner, a county school facilities official.

The crowd booed Steve Powell, county budget director, when he said that planning money for the new school would not be available until fiscal 1996. Parents insisted that if the state doesn't approve the project the county must.

"This is the county's responsibility," said Bud Herndon, president of Sykesville's PTA, to a standing ovation. "Oklahoma Middle School can't wait. No matter which agency sets the standards, "it does not change the fact that Sykesville is overcrowded and getting worse."

South Carroll will see a large increase in development because the area's sewer moratorium has been lifted and the economy is improving, he said.

"It appears to us that the state sets criteria to match its ability to pay," he said. "It is not our position to convince the state. The county ultimately is responsible."

Vernon Smith, director of School Support Services, said state refusal for new construction could be "devastating for Carroll County, where tax revenues and the industrial base are not as substantial as neighboring counties."

A $12 million project needs to be a joint venture, he said.

"If the state doesn't fund we would like to believe the county would forward fund the project," he said.

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