Governor backs funds for school

June 19, 1994|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writer

It took Gov. William Donald Schaefer less than 15 minutes to decide that C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air should get $1.84 million for a 356-student addition and a 6,500-square-foot gym.

The governor, who arrived at the school Friday in a large motor coach with his name painted on the side, took a quick peek inside the school and looked over a schematic drawing of the addition. He went outside to look at the site of the future 38,473-square-foot project and spent several minutes talking to about a dozen students.

"I will recommend this project to the [state] Board of Public Works when it meets later this month," said Mr. Schaefer, a board member.

"Governor Schaefer was our last chance for getting state funding this year," said County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who invited him to the school. She said the county -- now that it has Mr. Schaefer's blessing -- could start construction next month and finish the addition in about a year.

She said that the project, which will include 14 classrooms, had been approved for state money but that the money had not been allocated.

Mrs. Rehrmann said the county set aside $1.2 million for its share of the costs, but cannot proceed without state money.

County School Superintendent Ray R. Keech said he was ecstatic that the governor endorsed the project. "This is a booming growth area, and I think the governor appreciates that," he said.

C. Milton Wright, the last high school built in the county, has a capacity of 1,197 students. This year the school had 1,283 students and expects 1,600 by 1999.

Yale Stenzler, executive director of the state's school construction program, visited the 14-year-old school with the governor.

He said his office received requests for more than $239 million worth of school projects this year, but the state's school construction budget for fiscal 1995, which begins July 1, is only $106 million. About $94 million has been parceled out for new schools, additions or renovations.

The remaining $12 million was C. Milton Wright High's final hope, Mr. Stenzler said. He said about 30 schools had applied for the money.

Mr. Schaefer chose to tour only four of them.

Friday, the governor toured Ashburton Elementary in Baltimore, which is asking for $3.9 million for renovations; Cecil Manor Elementary in Elkton, which wants $2.4 million to build a 19,564-square-foot addition; and Western Technical High in Catonsville, which is asking for $684,000 to build a 15,000-square-foot addition.

Wright Principal Ronald S. Webb, who showed the governor drawings of the project, explained that the 181,000-square-foot school has two portable classrooms and has built four temporary classrooms in the hallways.

He said students have difficulty getting to and from classes because the one staircase they can use is narrow. The three-story addition would include a large circular stairway to improve traffic flow.

Shannon Terry, 16, said the school desperately needs the additional classrooms. "Our classes are absolutely packed. In my history class, there were 34 students and in my chemistry class, there were 36 students," she said.

Shannon, who will be a senior next year, said crowded classrooms made it difficult to get a teacher's attention to ask questions, "and we are always running out of supplies."

Dena DeBellis, 16, said the addition is important. But she said meeting the governor on the last day of school was exciting.

"This is someone you see on television or read about in the paper. You don't get to see the governor every day," she said.

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