Howard schools chief proposes a capital budget of $35.48 million New alternative school and high school sought

September 23, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Howard County Schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has proposed a $35.48 million capital budget for next year that includes construction of an alternative school for troubled students and the planning of a new high school in Fulton to open by fall of 2002.

The building plan, released yesterday and presented to the school board, also proposes constructing an Ellicott City middle school by 2004 and many additions, replacements or renovations to county schools over the next decade.

Officials predict that the school system will have 6,732 new students in the next 10 years, a 17 percent increase. Enrollment now is about 42,000.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7: 30 p.m. Oct. 1 and a public work session and vote at 7: 30 p.m. Oct. 6.

The proposed budget -- most of which will be funded by county bonds -- goes to the county executive for approval after the state decides how much it will contribute. The school board is scheduled to approve its final capital request by June 1, 1999.

The state gave Howard County schools $14.3 million last year, one of the largest amounts it had ever received. However, Hickey noted that the amount fell far short of the $18 million school officials had wanted.

"Gov. [Parris N.] Glendening has given us more than any of his predecessors have, but he's also had more to give," said Hickey, who said the school system has been dissatisfied with the state funding it had received in recent years.

School officials expect some shifts in the student population in coming years.

While elementary and middle school populations are expected to level off in 2003 and 2006 respectively, the school system predicts that the number of high school students will continue to increase until 2010, peaking at 16,167.

That number represents a 42 percent increase over the September 1997 enrollment.

"The new high school is crucial to us," said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent of planning and support services.

Growth in enrollment is occurring throughout the county, except Columbia, where 13 schools are expected to be under capacity by 2009.

Hickey's capital plan for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1, includes:

* Almost $7.8 million for major renovations at Ellicott Mills Middle School, which was built in 1939 and is the county's oldest middle school. Until that project is finished in 2001, students will be housed for two years at Bonnie Branch Middle School, one of two new middle schools opening next fall.

* $1.9 million in planning funds for a new high school in southern Howard County's Fulton area, set to open in 2002. The school will cost about $29 million.

Kalin stressed the importance of the school, pointing out that the county's high schools eventually would be more than 2,300 students over capacity without it. "We cannot let that happen," he said.

* $5.8 million for construction of an alternative school to open by fall 2000. This month, school officials outlined their request for a center that would house four programs for students with behavioral and emotional problems, including the Gateway School.

Gateway serves about 100 middle and high school students, who were "extremely disruptive" in their regular schools, according to an Education Department report.

* $3 million to renovate Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia by 2000. The project would involve construction of a gym and conversion of the old gym into space for art and music.

* A $1 million addition to Glenelg High School to be finished by 2001.

* $812,000 each for an addition at Pointers Run Elementary School in Clarksville, which would provide space for 100 more students by 2000, and at Ellicott City's Ilchester Elementary School.

The building plan also calls for $7 million in lighting, electrical and heating/air conditioning/ventilation renovations at several schools, including Jeffers Hill Elementary in Columbia, Glenwood Middle, Harper's Choice Middle in Columbia and Howard High School in Ellicott City, and for planning Columbia's Atholton Elementary School.

Despite the proposed construction projects, many of Howard County's schools will be over capacity by 2004 -- 20 of 37 elementary schools, nine of 16 middle schools and eight of 10 high schools, according to the capital plan.

However, Hickey said the school system should be able to accommodate the growth, even in the high schools, where enrollment is projected to increase annually well into the next decade.

"We don't feel we can build facilities for the peak because, almost by definition, your enrollment is going to start to decline," Hickey said. "We feel that we can make it work by a combination of redistricting and [portable classrooms]."

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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