Plan to raise capacity of schools upsets panel Board president calls idea 'unreasonable'

March 05, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel school board members are poised to lash out tomorrow at county planners who are to explain their plan to increase school capacity figures, a proposal that would put the board in the unenviable position of redistricting or crowding schools.

Board President Joseph H. Foster calls the plan "unreasonable," and Thomas Twombly, a board member from Pasadena, said it is indicative of the county's "bloodthirsty, Dracula-type quest for revenue."

Planners say the method would help fill empty classroom seats and help pay for new school construction.

In part, the county's plan would create a service area for an individual school, within a half-hour bus ride of the building. When student populations at comparable-level schools in the service area reach 120 percent of capacity, planners would halt new housing development.

Meanwhile, developers whose houses would add enough children to put a neighborhood school more than over 100 percent of capacity would pay waiver fees to the county.

Steven Cover, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, said the money would just about cover the cost of new buildings or additions, a claim that school board members dispute.

"In order to work, it's encouraging some redistricting," he said.

The school board would decide whether and how to redistrict or allow student population to hit 120 percent of capacity.

The board has been reluctant loath to drastically shift school boundaries to go along with shifting populations, leaving many North County and Annapolis schools underused while many Pasadena and Old Mill schools are crowded, but avoiding the emotional pleas from parents who do not want their children to be pulled from their neighborhood schools.

"I don't agree with 120 percent," Mr. Foster said. "I think that is unreasonable. I don't think that you should issue building permits once the school has reached 100 percent of capacity."

Even if the plan saves money on construction costs, it adds to busing costs, he said.

Thomas Andrews, county land use chief, said parts of the plan, such as the length of a student bus ride, are negotiable. But the financial component won't work if the cap drops is dropped much below 120 percent, said Mr. Cover.

Mr. Twombly, who has been highly critical of county growth policies, and other board members plan to quiz county officials at the 3 p.m. session in Annapolis.

The board meeting is at 3 p.m. in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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