School board hears pleas for funding Parents, students tell officials of need for repair, renovation

October 01, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Antiquated heating and ventilation, too few classrooms and outdated buildings are among the problems that need to be addressed in Howard County schools, parents and students told school officials last night.

"Howard High School has an urgent need for renovations and additions," said Grace Lee, president of the PTSA at the school. She spoke at a public hearing on the nearly $34 million proposed capital budget for county schools for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

"We must begin, and the time is now, to fund the planning phase [of the work at Howard High]. Only you can do this," she told school officials.

The officials agreed.

After the hourlong hearing, during which more than 20 parents and students listed their capital priorities, school officials added $150,000 in planning funds for Howard High to the proposed budget.

A $4.5 million addition to Howard High is planned for completion in 2006.

Last night's was the first of two scheduled hearings on the school system's proposed operating and capital budgets for fiscal 1999.

The capital plan, submitted by schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey last month, calls for construction of two middle schools and a high school to accommodate student growth in the next decade.

The plan also includes funding for additions to two elementary schools and one high school next year and calls for additions to eight more schools during the next 10 years.

The board will vote on the capital proposal Oct. 7 and send it 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 school construction aid for Howard.

Last night, people who testified at the hearing told officials of problems at their schools and urged them to approve the capital proposals.

"The lack of adequate ventilation has had an adverse effect on our children's learning environment " said parent Debra Stanley of problems at Jeffers Hill Elementary School. "Our unhealthy school environment contradicts a productive and successful learning environment."

Hickey's proposed capital budget includes about $6 million to upgrade lighting, electrical and ventilation systems at Jeffers Hill and several other schools.

Others who testified noted other problems.

"Our music teacher has to come to our room with a cart because she has no classroom," said Danielle Schoree, a fourth-grader at Clarksville Elementary School. "I hope that by next year we can have a portable classroom so my music teacher will have a room."

The proposed budget seeks about $300,000 for the relocation of 13 to 15 portable classrooms.

"We're always facing the problem of more needs in people's minds than we could possibly fund," Hickey said during a break in the hearing. "There is always the dilemma of still needing to build new schools while other schools are aging."

Last year, a smaller-than-expected state contribution -- about $6.2 million of the $28 million capital budget for fiscal year 1998 -- left officials scrambling to pay for construction needed to accommodate student growth.

Gaining an increased contribution from the state this year is a top priority, officials said last night.

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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