Budget calls for schools to be built Dramatic growth in number of students seen over 10 years

Hearing set on proposal

State contribution for construction to be determined

September 23, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

A nearly $34 million proposed capital budget for Howard County schools calls for construction of two new middle schools and a high school to accommodate expected dramatic student growth during the next 10 years, Schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said.

The plan released yesterday also maps out funding for additions to two elementary schools and one high school next year and calls for additions to eight other county schools over the next 10 years.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the capital proposal at 7: 30 p.m. Sept. 30 and a public work session and vote Oct. 7. The budget then goes to to County Executive Charles I. Ecker for approval.

The board will approve a final version of the capital request May 29, after state officials decide on the amount of state money coming to Howard for school construction.

"The state is supposed to be a 50-50 partner with the school system, but that has not been the case with Howard County," Hickey said of his hopes that state funding this year is more generous than last.

A smaller-than-expected state contribution last year -- about $6.2 million, of the total $28 million fiscal year 1998 capital budget -- left county officials scrambling to pay for construction needed to deal with student growth, said school officials, who presented the proposed budget during a news conference yesterday.

"If the governor [Parris N. Glendening] took care of Baltimore City and P.G. [Prince George's] County last year, now maybe if he takes care of Montgomery he'll have some left for us," Hickey said. "He said last year he was aware of our needs. I trust he'll remember that, and I can assure you we'll remind him."

Hickey will present the proposed budget to the school board at a meeting tonight.

Planned school expansions between now and 2009 would provide classroom space for the nearly 8,000 more students -- a 21 percent growth -- expected to enroll in county schools in that time, Hickey said. High school enrollment is projected to jump by nearly 50 percent, he said.

This year, the projections have shifted. The elementary population, once expected to peak in 2001, is now expected to reach its maximum in 2003, Hickey said. That shift also changes projections for enrollment in middle and high schools, which will peak in 2006 and 2010 respectively, he said.

If approved in its current form by county and state officials next year, the plan for fiscal year 1999 -- which begins July 1 -- would provide funding for all county schools needed for the rest of the decade, Hickey said.

The plan also includes:

Nearly $10.8 million for completion of a new middle school on Ilchester Road in the northeastern part of the county, expected to open in 1999. The school would accommodate general growth in that area and temporarily house students enrolled at Ellicott Mills Middle School, which will undergo an addition and massive renovation.

$530,000 for the work at Ellicott Mills -- dubbed a "replacement renovation" -- which would gut the facility built in 1939 and upgrade it by the year 2001.

$4.2 million to complete construction of a new middle school in the Fulton area of western Howard County to open in 1999.

Nearly $5.6 million for an addition of 401 seats to Glenelg High School by 2001.

$1.8 million for the construction of a new high school in the Fulton area of western Howard. The project, to open in 2002, would ultimately cost more than $18 million, if approved.

$1.5 million for the addition of a new cluster of classrooms and renovations at Phelps Luck Elementary. The school is about 80 students over capacity, a figure expected to remain about the same in coming years.

$201,000 for upgrades, construction of a gymnasium and renovation of the existing gym at Columbia's Talbott Springs Elementary, which has not had any significant renovations since it opened in 1973.

$195,000 for renovations at St. John's Lane Elementary.

The capital plan also requests money for renovations -- upgrading older buildings' heating, lighting and electrical systems -- at Dunloggin, Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills, Harpers Choice and Glenwood middle schools and Swansfield and Jeffers Hill elementaries.

"For many years, we had the most rapidly growing school system in the state," Hickey said. "Now, it's in the top two or three. We're going to have close to 50,000 students enrolled in 10 years."

The bulk of student growth in the county will take place among middle and high school students as the county population as a whole ages, schools officials said.

During the next decade, student populations at all school levels in the Ellicott City area and western Howard -- which includes Columbia's River Hill village, Clarksville and West Friendship areas -- are expected to mushroom, said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent of planning and support services.

At the same time, particularly at the elementary level, enrollment will drop sharply in Columbia, he said.

This will create the need for redistricting, particularly to shift students from the northeast county into schools in Columbia east of U.S. 29, Kalin said.

"In order to minimize redistricting, we're asking that a new high school be built," he said. "This budget is our definition of need."

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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