Crownsville site offered for alternative school Facility would serve disruptive teen-agers

April 17, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The alternative high school that Anne Arundel County educators want to open next year for disruptive teen-agers probably will be housed in a county-owned building at the state complex in Crownsville.

County officials, who support the creation of the alternative school, are offering the school system free use of one of the three buildings at the campus off Generals Highway.

Ironically, for 15 years the Crownsville complex housed another county program for problem youths -- the Careers Center vocational program for troubled teen-agers, which fell victim to the budget ax in 1993.

School officials jumped at the prospect of getting the building. Their search for a site turned up nothing nearly so viable.

Some residents are worried that the school for troubled youths could be placed in their neighborhoods. But at Crownsville, the school's immediate neighbors will be the police; the county detectives' bureau is next door. A state mental hospital also is on the campus.

"It will be perfect for us. It is centrally located. It is not smack-dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood," said Kenneth Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction.

During a budget presentation yesterday, school officials told County Council members they expected that a fire marshal's evaluation of the site will be finished this week.

The brick building will need at least $200,000 in renovations, estimated Ralph A. Luther, school facilities chief. It needs fire alarms, paint, security and telephone systems, modifications for handicapped access and other one-time expenses.

Get-tough policies in the past two years have resulted in rising levels of student suspensions and expulsions for school violence and other disruptive behaviors.

Several months ago, school officials proposed creating a 120-student alternative high school that would offer intensive student counseling and family therapy as well as education. The school board has endorsed the idea, including some $472,000 in its budget request to open the school for the second semester next year.

Mr. Lawson said with transportation, the price tag for the start-up and the first half-year would be about $650,000; after that, it would cost $1.4 million a year.

County Executive John G. Gary said yesterday that he offered the site and is including funds for the alternative high school in his proposed budget, in part because he was unable to secure a financial commitment from the state to start a proposed Gateway Program that would be similar to the old Careers Center.

Next year, he might try to start Gateway, which would provide classes and job training for dropouts.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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