County yields in school boundary dispute New proposal eliminates shift of Fifth District pupils to elementary in Sparks

May 20, 1998|By Howard Libit and Larry Carson | Howard Libit and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Responding to pressure from parents, Baltimore County school officials announced last night new redistricting plans in what has been the district's most contentious boundary line dispute.

The revised proposal -- presented to the school board last night -- would eliminate plans to transfer Fifth District Elementary School students to the new Sparks Elementary School. It also would delay boundary line changes for Sparks until fall 1999.

Also yesterday, county officials outlined plans to send an extra $8.6 million to the school system for previously announced repairs at 14 aging schools. The money would come from County Council cuts to the operating budget proposed by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

In addition to proposing new boundary lines for Sparks, school officials gave the board redistricting plans for middle schools in the western and northwestern areas of the county.

The middle school changes have been discussed in a series of community meetings over the past two months and have drawn relatively little opposition.

But the boundary line plan for Sparks outlined in March upset parents in that area almost from the time it was announced.

A larger Sparks building is expected to open next school year to replace the one that burned down in 1995. Sparks students have been attending classes in Cockeysville Middle School. The new building is projected to open no sooner than mid-October.

Initially, officials proposed sending children from Jacksonville and Fifth District elementary schools to Sparks this fall.

But parents at Sparks and Cockeysville worried that if new boundary lines went into effect this fall, there wouldn't be room at Cockeysville for the additional students during the period before the new building opens.

Also, families at Fifth District oppose a move to Sparks.

The revised proposal appears to address both concerns. No Fifth District children would be transferred under the new proposal, and the transfer of students from Jacksonville would not occur until fall 1999.

"All of the folks agreed that this is something they want to see happen," said Richard Milbourne, central area superintendent.

To ensure that all of the space at Sparks is used, officials proposed expanding the number of children who would be transferred from Jacksonville in 1999.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the proposals June 2 and vote on them June 16.

In recycling money cut from next year's operating budget, Ruppersberger and the council agreed that $7.3 million would go to school repairs and $1.3 million to refurbish athletic fields worn down by years of heavy use and poor maintenance.

The $8.6 million was added to $51 million in state and county money put aside for major repairs. The county also has received $2.9 million for smaller repairs to 23 aging schools.

The work includes a $1.2 million heating system at Dumbarton Middle School, a $100,000 parking lot at Elmwood Elementary School and $855,000 for windows at Catonsville Middle School.

The other schools receiving money are Arbutus and Villa Cresta elementary schools; Deep Creek, General John Stricker, Lansdowne, Middle River, Parkville and Pikesville middle schools; and Owings Mills, Pikesville and Sparrows Point high schools.

Pub Date: 5/20/98

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