Funding for Elmer Wolfe sought from commissioners School officials to press request at meeting today

February 04, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

County school officials say they will press the County Commissioners today for additional money for the planned Elmer Wolfe Elementary School. But they face a hard sell.

The commissioners refused in December to allow the school board to use part of an insurance dividend to restore two features that had been cut from the plans for the Union Bridge school after bids came in more than $1 million over budget. School system spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said the issue is expected to come up today at the school board's quarterly meeting with the commissioners.

Parents have been lobbying to change the commissioners' decision, and Superintendent Brian Lockard sent a letter to the commissioners explaining the school board's position. But only Commissioner Donald I. Dell says he is willing to reconsider.

"I don't think they understand the community's frustration at this," said Vickie Mastalerz, mother of two Elmer Wolfe Elementary School students and a speech teacher at the school.

She is one of several parents who have tried to get Steven D. Powell, county management and budget director, to reverse his recommendation against allowing the Board of Education to use the insurance money for the school. Dell and Commissioner Richard T. Yates said the recommendation influenced the commissioners' decision.

Deborah M. Doxzon, mother of an Elmer Wolfe kindergarten student, said the school board's proposal to allocate part of the insurance dividend, followed by the commissioners' refusal, created an emotional seesaw. "I guess our hopes were kind of buoyed again because this money was going to be available and then the rug was pulled out from under us again," she said.

School officials cut $1.3 million in planned features from the building after bids came in more than $1 million over budget in March 1996. Some of the features were restored last year after the project was rebid, producing a lower construction cost. The school board promised parents in August 1996 that if additional money became available, it would be used for Elmer Wolfe.

The board got a $237,000 workers compensation insurance dividend in November and asked the commissioners for permission to use $106,000 for additional shelving and a courtyard amphitheater for the new school. It is being built on the site of the former Elmer Wolfe School in Union Bridge, and is to open in September 1998, one year behind schedule.

"The school is a year behind [schedule] and the children are in a building that is falling down," Mastalerz said.

Union Bridge-New Windsor area residents fear that their school won't be equal to those in other areas of the county.

"That end of the county doesn't ask us for much," Dell said. He said he won't support extravagance, but wants the new Elmer Wolfe school to be "equal to others."

Powell said he recommended against using the insurance money because, "It's an $8 million project. The priorities were established. The board set these priorities when it awarded the bids."

The total project will cost $7.6 million, with construction accounting for $6.4 million, or $98.06 a square foot. The planned Linton Springs Elementary School in Eldersburg, bid at the same time, will cost $103.75 a square foot.

The school facilities department calculated that the amphitheater and shelving that the school board wants to restore to the Elmer Wolfe plans would add $1.60 per square foot to the cost.

Principal Mary Stong said teachers need the addition shelving "so we won't have boxes sitting. Our teachers will have adequate storage space for their papers."

Stong said teachers could use the courtyard amphitheater to take classes outdoors. The courtyard "has historic significance for the community," she said. It will house items such as the original Elmer Wolfe High School insignia and sculptures created by students.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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