Elected officials and members of the Board of Education heard a calm presentation last night of a stormy issue: whether TC South Carroll or Westminster will get a new high school to alleviate crowding.
The decision, which is expected to be made known Wednesday when the board adopts a school construction plan for the next 10 years, is sure to rile county residents in whichever heavily populated area doesn't get the new school.
Vernon Smith, director of school support services, and Kathleen Sanner, a school system planner, gave the board two options last night, one for Westminster and one for South Carroll.
The first option calls for construction of a Westminster high school with state and county funds and for the county to build additions to Liberty and South Carroll high schools at a cost of about $6.5 million each. The county would seek reimbursement from the state later.
The second option calls for construction of a high school in South Carroll and a major redistricting of Westminster students. Redistricting, even on a small scale, is unpopular with parents and students.
At least two board members, Ann M. Ballard and Carolyn L. Scott, want a third option, as does Del. Ellen L. Willis, a Westminster Democrat. They want to build a new Westminster High School next year, using state and county funds. And they want the county to build a $25 million South Carroll high school at the same time and seek state reimbursement later.
County Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he could support building two high schools if the state paid 65 percent of the money upfront. Commissioner Donald I. Dell did not comment on the proposal.
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who did not attend the meeting, said this week that he saw no need to make a decision by Wednesday.
"I think the question is too big" to be settled by next week, Brown said. "I think we can afford to miss a [state] deadline." Wednesday is the deadline for receiving consideration for state funds.
Until last fall, a new Westminster-area high school was the preferred alternative. But members of the county planning commission, during a review of proposed school projects in October, said the "real need" for a new high school was in South Carroll.
Planning commission members suggested that the school board abandon the proposed Westminster site and look instead at expanding Liberty and South Carroll high schools.
School officials looked at expanding the two South Carroll high schools but did not abandon the Westminster proposal.
When a group of South Carroll parents learned last month that additions were being planned for their high schools, rather than a new school, they were irate.
One parent warned board members that they would suffer "voter backlash" if they approved Westminster as the site for the new high school.
Westminster parents urged the board not to yield to rising political pressure from South Carroll.
Meanwhile, the three-member state Board of Public Works, which provides school construction funds to Maryland jurisdictions, gave planning approval for a second Westminster-area high school May 7, based on data from Westminster and South Carroll.
Planning approval is a virtual promise that the state will help build a school. It was being granted, the Board of Public Works said, "to relieve the current and projected overcrowding brought about by the increased number of homes and students in this part of Carroll County."
The school board faces a dilemma. A new school in the south would not alleviate crowding at Westminster High, which is at its capacity of 2,000 students. An addition to the school, one of the largest in the state, is out of the question because of its age.
And the estimated $6.5 million that would be spent on additions to the South Carroll high schools would leave them crowded.
Pub Date: 5/23/97