High school for Fulton Howard County: Proposed capital budget should put needed project back on track for completion by 2002.

September 30, 1998

IT'S GOOD to see a new high school for eastern Howard County move closer to reality with Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed capital budget for next year. There's no danger that the school project could be derailed by outgoing County Executive Charles I. Ecker. His final term will end before the budget is voted on next spring.

Mr. Ecker removed money to plan a high school from the current capital budget. He suggested a radical redesign of the system, creating junior highs to offset the need for a new high school. The County Council instead decided to postpone allocation of funds to plan a high school.

Dr. Hickey's proposed $35 million capital budget includes $1.9 million to begin designing the school, which would be built by 2002. With three lame ducks on the council, he may have to convince its new members elected in November that the school is needed.

This shouldn't be hard. Lower grades in Howard County are bursting with students who will be high-school age in a few years. Add to that the children who will live in the thousands of homes planned in North Laurel / Fulton.

Mr. Ecker, ever the fiscal conservative, was concerned about the $28 million cost of a school that might not be needed in future years when the high-school-age population could decline. But the council cannot risk the education of thousands of children by trying to put off needed school construction until the number of students goes down, if it goes down. Howard's population of 5- to 19-year-olds is projected to grow past 2010.

It makes sense to build a high school now in what is becoming a very popular residential area for families with children. If the construction schedule Dr. Hickey envisions is adhered to, a high school will open before crowding dilutes the quality of education that existing high schools provide.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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