Schools seek $35 million for buildings Enrollment 'bulge' moving to middle and high schools

Crowding anticipated

New buildings and additions included in plan

September 25, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey proposed yesterday a $35 million capital budget for next year that would complete all elementary school construction within two years and begin a rapid expansion for the expected explosive growth of middle and high school students.

Hickey's plan includes the construction of two new elementary schools, four new middle schools and additions to nine other schools over the next 10 years. That's in addition to the two new elementaries and one new middle school that Howard will open next fall. Those projects were paid for in this year's capital budget.

The expansion is required to provide classrooms for an anticipated 19 percent growth in enrollment in Howard schools over the next decade, from 39,000 students this fall to 46,400 in 2006, school officials said.

"The enrollment bulge we saw beginning in the elementaries in the mid-1980s is leaving the elementary grades -- although not completely -- and is moving on to the middle schools and high schools," Hickey said.

But even with the proposed construction, enrollment is projected to be far greater than capacity in many Howard schools over the next decade. In 2002, 25 elementaries, 11 middle schools and seven high schools are expected to be overcrowded. Some of that crowding will be relieved by portable classrooms, school officials said.

Hickey's capital plan for fiscal year 1998, which begins next July 1, includes:

$2 million for the completion of renovations to the Howard County School of Technology, which will become the Applications and Research Laboratory and serve students in the county's technology magnet program.

$880,000 to equip two new elementary schools scheduled to open in fall 1998 in Fulton and North Laurel.

$1 million to build an addition to Worthington Elementary School, $2 million for an addition to Waterloo Elementary School and $1.5 million for an addition to Deep Run Elementary School. All three additions would be completed by fall 1998.

$6.5 million to begin construction of a new middle school in Glenelg, and another $6.5 million to begin construction of a new middle school in Ellicott City next to Ilchester Elementary School. Both schools would be completed in fall 1999.

About $6 million to begin building an addition to Mount Hebron High School that would be completed in fall 1999.

The capital plan also requests money for renovations, including: The final phases of renovations at Dunloggin, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake schools that will be completed in 1998.

The science areas of Centennial and Hammond high schools to be completed in summer 1998. Similar renovations are scheduled to be done next summer at Atholton and Howard high schools as part of this year's capital budget.

Planning for renovations at Worthington Elementary School and Glenwood and Harper's Choice middle schools.

The inclusion of Glenwood represents a victory for parents and staff at the school. This summer, they orchestrated a strong campaign to persuade education officials that their school is old and desperately in need of renovations.

But Hickey's proposal eliminates a new elementary school in the northeastern part of the county that had been planned for fall 1999, replacing it with the 144-student addition to Deep Run.

If approved by the county school board, the northeastern elementary school would be the third proposed new elementary school eliminated from the long-term capital plan in two years -- a sign of both the school system's efforts to lower capital budget requests and the approaching leveling off of elementary school enrollment.

Howard's elementary population, now at 19,100 students, is projected to peak in 2001 at 20,900 pupils. But Howard's middle school enrollment, now at 9,100 students, isn't expected to peak until 2004 at almost 11,800 students. And its high school population, now at 10,700 pupils, will increase by about 50 percent before it peaks at 15,800 in 2008.

Additions are scheduled for all of the county's seven high schools over the next six years, as officials try to save money and forgo building a new high school in Fulton.

Most of the available classroom space will be in Columbia schools, said Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin. Some of that space will be used to accommodate students redistricted from more crowded schools just outside Columbia, such as those who live in the area around Waterloo Elementary School.

Hickey also repeated his expressed goal to eventually use some of the extra elementary school space for pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs.

Most of the proposed capital budget would be funded by county bonds. Hickey said he hoped that the state would provide between $8 million and $12 million -- about what it has provided the last few years.

A request for between $20 million and $25 million in county bonds would be about the upper limit of what County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday that Howard could afford.

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