School project gets OK Board paves way for modernization of Wilde Lake High

September 10, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

The Howard County school board approved exterior renovation plans for Wilde Lake High School yesterday, calling for demolition of nearly everything to modernize the 22-year-old building.

Only Wilde Lake's gymnasium would remain in the nearly $20 million, two-year renovation scheduled to begin next summer. Consultants who worked on the plan said breaking down the structure was necessary because renovations based on the school's current design would require too much work to meet safety codes.

Design work on the interior design -- including a decision on the number of floors -- has not begun. It would be accessible to the disabled, unlike the current four-level building with 10 stairways but no elevator.

Three other proposals examined by the consulting firm of Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet had similar price tags, but were rejected because of their less efficient use of space. The plans included the idea of demolishing the entire building and starting from the ground up, as well as saving the entire structure and rebuilding from within.

School board members approved a schematic plan for a school that could hold 1,400 students, but have not voted to expand enrollment capacity at Wilde Lake, which currently has 910 students. Planners said they could scale down the proposal to accommodate fewer students.

In other matters, the board listened to reports on last year's middle and high school suspensions. A report on elementary school suspensions was delayed until the next meeting because the report contained calculation errors.

The number of middle school suspensions last year rose to 427 from close to 70 the previous year and more than 90 two years ago. Alice Haskins, director of middle schools, attributed the increase to the rise in the number of students, from 6,600 in 1990 to nearly 7,500 in the last school year.

Middle-schoolers got into trouble the most for fighting, which accounted for 159 suspensions, and for behavioral problems, 120 suspensions.

Overcrowded conditions in some schools contributed to the rise in the number of suspensions there, Ms. Haskins said.

The number of middle-schoolers caught with drugs also increased, with 17 suspensions last year compared with 5 in the 1991-92 school year. The increase stemmed from two major incidents -- one in which a group of several students was caught sniffing computer cleaner fumes in a bathroom. The two students who passed around the cleaner received 10-day suspensions; the others got penalties of four or five days away from school.

"I don't think this is something to be overly concerned about," Ms. Haskins said.

She told board members she was optimistic that middle school suspensions would decrease this year because peer mediation programs -- in which student leaders attempt to intervene in and resolve conflicts before they become fights -- are being implemented at the middle school level.

Peer mediation has been used at the high school level for at least two years, and school officials say the program has reduced the number of fights.

Atholton, the first school with peer mediation, saw its suspensions from fighting decrease from 41 in the 1991-92 school year to 18 last school year. The decline at Howard High was from 61 to 40 during the same period.

The 766 high school suspensions countywide marked a 4 percent decline from the 1991-92 period.

The most significant decline occurred at Howard High, where suspensions decreased almost 50 percent, to 70, last year compared with the 1991 school year. Principal Eugene Streagle credited his staff and a host of programs, including individualized classrooms that allow students to attend in lieu of suspension.

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