School projects on board agenda Additions proposed at Liberty High and South Carroll

April 09, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The county school board will hear a proposal today to add 19 classrooms to Liberty High School and a smaller addition to South Carroll High, to keep up with enrollment in the Route 26 corridor -- the fastest-growing part of the county.

But several parents plan to speak up at the meeting to ask that the county instead build a new high school on land near Linton Springs Elementary.

"It's a Band-Aid way of fixing our problem here," said Susan Krebs, a PTA member from Oklahoma Road Middle and Freedom Elementary schools.

Krebs said that by building the permanent additions, the county would risk losing state funding for a new high school in the future. Better to use portable classrooms, she said, and keep the way clear for a new school.

School officials don't disagree entirely that southern Carroll County needs another high school, but a new one would cost about $16 million. Additions to two high schools would cost half as much, said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities.

And even with a new high school, Liberty still might need to expand, said Principal Robert Bastress.

"I don't think we have any choice," Bastress said. "Even if we build a new high school, it appears we need to expand Liberty."

Liberty is the easternmost of the high schools in southern Carroll, and much of the growth in the area is east of the school.

When students are changing classes, hallways at Liberty are wall to wall with people. Lunches are staggered from 10: 30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with about 350 students at a time filing through two cafeteria lines.

Parents say that no matter how many classrooms are added to Liberty, the rest of the school -- the cafeteria, library, athletic fields -- can take only the 1,200 students for which it was designed. Liberty already has 1,470 students. South Carroll High in Woodbine was designed for 1,400 students, and has 1,415. The proposed additions would increase each school's capacity to 1,600.

"Even if a new high school is approved, it's going to be four or five years before that school is built. In the meantime, our school population is going to be way over our stated capacity," Bastress said.

The architects of Liberty High, which was built in 1980, are to draw up plans for an expansion. Bushey Feight Architects Inc. of Hagerstown has met with Bastress and Surber to look at expanding the cafeteria and kitchen, and guidance and health suites.

Of the 19 classrooms to be added, four would be for science, an area Bastress wants to expand anyway. The addition, at the back of the school, would include two corridors.

"We can't make the existing hallways any bigger," Bastress said.

The crunch at Liberty became apparent in September, when enrollment came in about 30 students higher than expected. The school's enrollment is projected to grow by about 10 percent per year for the next 10 years, Surber said.

Until a few weeks ago, officials had thought building a new school in Westminster would alleviate crowding at Liberty, and that eventually building a new school near Linton Springs would do the same.

But Bastress said that as he and others looked over attendance projections about six weeks ago, it became apparent that even if two new high schools were built, Liberty would need more space.

"The question is, what size do we want the schools to be?" said Surber. "Through the years, we've been operating on a belief it should be 1,200 to 1,400 students. The one thing that needs to be retained is the personal touch in terms of dealing with students."

Pub Date: 4/09/97

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