Two new schools may be smaller Officials say budget cuts threaten delayed opening of planned elementaries

September 12, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Two planned Anne Arundel County elementary schools probably will have to be smaller and their openings delayed if the county government does not authorize spending the amount originally estimated for construction costs, school officials said last night.

The two schools, Ridgeway and Jacobsville, are to replace old schools and increase student capacity. They are scheduled to open in the fall of 1998.

School officials said County Executive John G. Gary reduced the budget of each project by about $530,000 in his spring projections. Neither could absorb that reduction without redesign and cutting the number of classrooms, said Rodell Phaire, the county school system's planning and construction director.

The remarks by school officials came during a capital budget workshop for the school board, which was attended by four of its eight members.

School construction officials said they asked the designers to propose cost-saving options.

"Both architects came back and said we can't build that school for that amount of money," said Ralph A. Luther, the school facilities chief.

Cheaper finishing materials could save a little but would increase maintenance costs, he said.

For example, the lower part of corridor walls is tiled.

Painting the walls would cost less but they would be harder to keep clean and would require frequent repainting.

The school board approved $9.8 million for Ridgeway and $9.9 million for Jacobsville last year.

Redesign would delay the opening of the schools by at least half a year, said Ronald Beckett, the associate superintendent who oversees construction.

Thomas Maxwell, the executive's liaison to the board, said Gary promised to restore the higher figure if it turns out the money is needed.

Given the year's war between Gary and the Board of Education, school officials said, they are not sure that will happen, how Gary would portray it or whether he would force them to come to the county with hat in hand to seek the money.

Inaccurate estimates, design flaws and other problems connected with school construction have angered Gary, who has threatened to try to take over the job.

The school board is working to correct the problems.

Board President Joseph H. Foster said the reduced funding represented Gary's estimates "vs. that of professional architects."

Bids for the school projects are expected to be in by March.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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