Schools capital budget approved But construction is dependent on increased state aid

October 08, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Board of Education unanimously approved last night a proposed capital budget of nearly $34 million that would pay for construction of two middle schools and a high school.

Approved on a 4-0 vote -- board member Linda L. Johnston was absent -- the building plan includes additions to Glenelg High School and Phelps Luck and Talbott Springs elementary schools and renovation of St. Johns Lane Elementary School.

But board members and education officials said that the proposed projects would be jeopardized if the state does not increase last year's $6.2 million in school construction aid.

"I don't think that there's any disagreement that we would all like to see the capital budget request go as is," said board member Stephen C. Bounds. "But until we know what participation the state will offer, it could be back to the drawing board for us."

The capital plan now goes to County Executive Charles I. Ecker for his approval.

In other matters, schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he would make final recommendations on improving middle schools at the Nov. 13 board meeting.

A controversial middle school evaluation last year said Howard needed to find ways to use more of the school day for core academic courses like math and reading.

Some educators suggested reducing the time spent on nonacademic subjects. But parents, teachers and students last month urged the board to keep music and band classes as part of related arts instruction.

Although board members agreed that arts courses are important, the consensus seemed to be to find additional time for math and reading.

"I don't want to tell [students] that they can't pick band," said board member Karen B. Campbell. "But I want to make sure that the majority of our kids get the best education they can, and that's our responsibility."

The board also accepted a $110,000 State Department of Education grant to organize workshops for faculty members to learn how to help students improve scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

Associate Superintendent Sandra J. Erickson said school officials were working on a workshop plan.

"This dovetails nicely with what we were going to do anyway," she said. "Now we have the additional funds to support this development."

Concerning state aid, last year Maryland contributed $6.2 million to this year's capital budget, forcing Howard to delay some renovation projects in a system where 8,000 new students are expected over the next 12 years.

To meet that growth, the capital plan includes these proposals: Almost $10.8 million for construction of a middle school on Ilchester Road in the northeastern part of the county. That school is expected to open in 1999.

$4.2 million to build a middle school in the Fulton area to open in 1999.

$1.8 million for a high school, also in the Fulton area. The school, to open in 2002, would cost more than $18 million, if approved.

$5.5 million for additional classrooms at Glenelg High School.

$1.5 million for a cluster of classrooms and renovations at Phelps Luck Elementary School.

About $200,000 for additions and renovations at Talbott Springs and St. Johns Lane elementary schools.

$6 million to upgrade heating, lighting and electrical systems in older schools such as Swansfield and Jeffers Hill elementary schools and Dunloggin, Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, Harpers Choice and Glenwood middle schools.

Associate Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he is optimistic that the state will at least double last year's contribution.

"We cannot achieve the programs listed in this budget without sufficient state funds," Cousin said. "The only thing we're asking for is our fair share."

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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