Board considers sites to get portable classrooms

March 03, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County school board began grappling with redistricting elementary and middle school students last night but spent most of the meeting evaluating which schools should receive portable classrooms to relieve overcrowding.

The board's work session was the first of several this month to decide which students will be reassigned to existing and new elementary and middle schools.

The boundary lines for high school students will not be changed until 1996, when two new secondary schools are scheduled to open.

The school system redistricts its schools annually to compensate for the rapidly rising student population and the opening of new schools. System enrollment is expected to increase by about 11,000, to 47,000 students, by 2004.

The board will hear testimony from parents on the redistricting proposal Tuesday night. Additional testimony could be heard Wednesday if too many parents sign up for one hearing. The board has scheduled an additional work session March 14 and is expected to vote on the proposal March 23.

Although the proposals under consideration would affect relatively few elementary school students next year, board members raised many questions about overcrowded elementary schools that they believe deserve additional classrooms to handle the excess students.

For example, Clemens Crossing Elementary School is expected to be 20 percent over capacity next year, but school officials do not recommend that the West Columbia school receive any portable classrooms. Others, such as Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City, will receive some additional portable classrooms, but perhaps should receive more to absorb their extreme overcrowding.

"There is no easy answer to this," Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin said. "A number of places have to feel they deserve portable [classrooms]. This is the best we can do with the resources we have. If you give us more portables, I'm very open to assigning them."

Each portable classroom costs $25,000 to purchase and $15,000 to install. Moving a portable classroom from one school to another costs $15,000.

The school system has 50 portable classrooms. In next year's proposed capital budget submitted last week to the county executive, the board asked for nine new ones.

The redistricting proposal calls for the board to purchase 12 new portable classrooms to accommodate the overcrowding.

Dr. Kalin also said he believes that it will be possible to remove many portables from high schools and add them to elementary and middle schools when the two new secondary schools are opened in 1996.

Although the board has not yet heard testimony about the proposed redistricting, it did briefly discuss one of the complaints raised by parents about proposals for Ellicott Mills Middle School.

The 55-year-old building is scheduled to be replaced in 1999, and school officials plan to move 421 students who attend Ellicott Mills to the new Elkridge Landing Middle School when it opens in the fall. But in the meantime, school officials are looking for ways to keep Ellicott Mills' population above 450 -- the minimum it considers acceptable for middle schools.

One alternative calls for 123 Mayfield Woods Middle School students and some students from the Columbia Hills neighborhood to be transferred to Ellicott Mills. But some parents have objected.

Late last night, the board had not discussed the other controversial redistricting proposal that calls for some severely emotionally disturbed children to be transferred from Waterloo Elementary School to Stevens Forest Elementary School.

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