Parents targeting planners Overcrowding at school prompts talk of building halt

April 04, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Parents concerned with overcrowding at Sykesville Middle School are shifting their focus from education officials to county planners and developers.

As a last resort, they may ask for a building moratorium.

"We are going to attend every county planning meeting and ask questions," said Paige Herbert, a member of the Piney Ridge Elementary PTA. "How can they give approval for more building when the school board has said the middle school in this area is severely inadequate?"

Nearly 250 lots are set for construction in Sykesville, said Helen Spinelli, county comprehensive planner for the town. In the Freedom District, outside the town, another 50 subdivision sites with 1,100 lots have been approved since 1988, said Scott Fischer, a county planner.

The figures do not include the "considerable number" of lots with preliminary approval, Mr. Fischer said. Most children who move into those homes will attend South Carroll schools.

Susan Krebs of the Carrolltowne PTA said residents are not "anti-rowth," but "we can't build unless our facilities keep up." A moratorium would be "an easy way out" that would slow but not solve the area's problems.

"It would make a point and apply pressure," she said. "Still, we are already overcrowded whether there is more building or not."

Carroll Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the county may have to consider a moratorium if growth strains facilities.

After a meeting with about 500 parents and a tour of the school Tuesday, Mr. Dell said he was impressed with how crowded the building was and said he shared the parents' concerns.

"These people have expensive homes and pay a lot of taxes," Mr. Dell said. "They want services."

He stated several times his opposition to increasing taxes to build the proposed Oklahoma Road Middle School, on county-owned land north of Liberty Road.

Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, county director of planning, said he wouldn't use the word "moratorium."

"Plats would be deferred until some relief can be arranged," he said. "Lots not recorded can't be sold."

Officials deferred final lot approval in most of Carroll County for two months in 1988, when 13 of the 16 elementary schools the county operated at the time were severely overcrowded.

That measure led the county to forward-fund construction of Piney Ridge Elementary, said Mr. Cueman. The state has yet to reimburse the county for nearly $3 million in construction costs.

The county also accelerated construction plans for two other schools at that time.

But halting growth may have the opposite effect on the state, which eventually might finance 65 percent of the $12 million cost for Oklahoma Road Middle, he said.

"The more demanding projects are getting recognized by the state," he said.

"Stopping [homebuilding in the area] could send a proposed new school into limbo."

Without the state's contribution, the county would be hard pressed to build the proposed new school.

"The dollars just aren't there," Mr. Cueman said.

The Board of Education is monitoring growth in South Carroll and includes new development projections in its request for state funding. With the lifting of the sewer moratorium and an improvement in the economy, growth could come "fast and furiously," said Vernon Smith, the county's director of school support services.

South Carroll's elementary and middle school parents have been meeting regularly for several months to plan strategies to address the problem.

"We have to convince officials we have a severe problem which they have to attack now," Ms. Krebs said. "The county is behind in school construction, and the state is not funding it.

"We have to find funding."

They will meet this week with Del. Richard N. Dixon, a District 5A hTC Democrat, to discuss solutions. They also are encouraging parents to write to the county commissioners and the state delegation.

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