Frustrating Game of Musical Schools CARROLL COUNTY

August 31, 1993

Pupils of the new Runnymede Elementary School begin classes next week in an old building, as construction continues on their new home.

The 500 youngsters will use Taneytown Elementary School until Runnymede is completed, then move at midyear. "The building isn't what makes the school, it's the people that make the school," Principal Barbara Walker says.

She's right -- and we wonder why Carroll school officials didn'theed that advice before shuffling Taneytown children back and forth and summarily closing Uniontown Elementary this fall.

The administration knew early this year that the Runnymede contractor would not finish on time. Yet it plunged ahead with uprooting and redistricting Taneytown and Uniontown children instead of keeping them in these old schools for another year. (Shades of Sandymount last year!)

Taneytown Elementary needs renovations and is overcrowded. Uniontown was crowded and antiquated. But these schools had identities and their use in 1993-94 would have provided children with classroom and classmate stability.

Now, Uniontown kids will shift to Taneytown for a half-year, then move again to Runnymede, at Md. 140 and Mayberry Road. Taneytown kids will return to their old school this semester, then switch to Runnymede -- and will be shifted back again to renovated Taneytown in two years.

Coping with Carroll's mushrooming elementary-age population is difficult. Resources are limited. But the county's school building boom has lagged behind the baby boom, resulting in jury-rigged redistricting, shuttling youngsters between sites, more portable classrooms and unrealistic construction schedules.

School officials blame poor weather for 80 days of construction delays at Runnymede, which is about 85 percent complete.

That may be true technically. But school projects in Carroll -- as well as in Anne Arundel and Harford counties -- are not meeting completion dates because of shortened planning timetables and the desire to postpone spending until the last minute. We understand budget pinches and the shrinkage of state aid for school construction. But it's time for better planning of school facility needs. We hope the Runnymede experience will teach Carroll County that important lesson.

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