Sparks Elementary School, its roof caved in and its 85-year-old stone walls scarred by flames, stands in the winter wind waiting for resurrection.
Exactly where that rebirth takes place -- at the current site or elsewhere -- will be discussed tomorrow night at a meeting of the Greater Sparks-Glencoe Community Association at Hereford High School.
The current site is generally considered too small to accommodate the expansion sought by the Baltimore County school board. The burned-out Sparks school had a capacity of about 300 students, but a replacement large enough for 500 is favored by the board.
Both of the leading proposed sites have strings attached, but the community is eager to find a permanent home for the 300 Sparks students now in temporary quarters at Cockeysville Middle School.
A committee of school and community leaders established by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Superintendent Stuart Berger to investigate the two highest-priority sites and other possibilities will present its preliminary findings at the 7 p.m. meeting.
The community association and the Sparks PTA will be asked to vote on a preferred site by the end of the month, according to Lee Riley, the association president. The school board will make the final decision.
Proposed sites examined by the committee are:
* The former Highlands office park on York Road, a mile south of the current location.
* A tract on narrow, winding Cold Bottom Road just east of Interstate 83 and about 2 1/2 miles north of the burned-out school.
Hico Park Limited Partnership, owner of the 150-acre Highlands property, has offered to donate 23.7 acres at the southeast corner of its property for the school, contingent on community support and county approval of rezoning the remainder of the land from light industrial-commercial to residential.
Ellwood Sinsky, one of the Hico Park partners, said a site plan has been drawn up for 180 houses on about 70 acres, with about 60 acres devoted to open space.
The rezoning proposal, when it is taken to the county, would go to the Board of Appeals and then to the Planning Board, a usually lengthy process that would have to be speeded up considerably to meet the goal of a new Sparks school by September 1996. If the rezoning is not approved, the company will withdraw its offer of the free land.
"That's reasonable," said Mr. Riley, the community association president.
The Highlands site has the advantages of a location on York Road and having public water and sewer service available. It is on the southern edge of the Sparks school district. That location is across Ridgebrook Road and uphill from a 28-acre hazardous-waste site once owned by Bausch and Lomb Inc., a site that officials say will be cleaned up eventually.
The optical company disposed of chemical wastes in a lagoon drained by dry wells from 1958 until 1975, polluting ground water and soil with heavy metals and a toxic compound, trichloroethylene, that evaporates quickly when exposed to air but breaks down slowly in the soil.
TCE is not likely to build up in the body but is dangerous to anyone exposed to large amounts of it over a long period of time, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency said the property is recognized as a hazardous-waste site but is not on the Superfund priority list of about 1,200 sites nationwide.
A spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) said the waste problem has "no impact" on the proposed school site. An MDE official is to answer questions at tomorrow night's meeting. A spokeswoman for Rochester, N.Y.-based Bausch and Lomb said the company is prepared to work with the state on a cleanup but hasn't heard from MDE since the company and agency representatives inspected the site about a year ago.
The proposed Cold Bottom Road property is on a farm on the south side of the road. It lacks public water and sewer service and would have to depend on a septic system and wells. Its cost will have to be within the $400,000 budgeted by the school system for a site.
There are also community concerns about the intersection of Cold Bottom and York roads, where traffic sight lines are impaired.