Panel backs $37 million for schools School board leaves intact most of Hickey's proposal

Final action expected in June

Capital budget designates funds for renovation, additions

October 07, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school board approved last night a capital budget request that seeks more money for a major middle school renovation and elementary school additions, bringing the total to just over $37 million.

In a brisk work session, the board left intact much of Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed $35.48 million budget for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1.

However, the board was told that renovations to 60-year-old Ellicott Mills Middle School may cost between $1.9 and $3 million more than estimated if the school system decides to preserve the original building.

Hickey originally asked for about $7.8 million for renovations to the school, which is the county's oldest middle school. Though the cost still is uncertain, officials said renovating rather than completely replacing the school could cost as much as $10.7 million.

"The plan has always been to renovate, demolish [and] add to the entire facility," said Associate Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "Though we haven't heard much about this, we know that there is some sentiment toward preserving that building. To start from scratch would be much easier."

Board members opted to add that increase to the budget request for Ellicott Mills, with the option of changing it later, depending on final estimates. Until work is completed at that school in 2001, Ellicott Mills students will spend two years at Bonnie Branch Middle School, which opens next fall.

The board is seeking $865,000 each for additions at Pointers Run Elementary School in Clarksville and Ilchester Elementary School Ellicott City. The original budget request was for $812,000, but board members said they wanted to ensure that those additions would provide "adequate space" for students.

The proposed budget for a new alternative school dropped from $5.8 million to about $5 million because it will serve fewer students. Initially, school officials planned to house four programs for the county's most troubled students in one building. But a program for emotionally vulnerable students was RTC cut after board members raised concerns about fragile children being placed alongside disruptive ones.

Because of those changes, the alternative school would open in August 2000 with 200 students instead of 250.

Also included in the capital budget request is $1.9 million in planning funds for a new high school in southern Howard County's Fulton area set to open in 2002; $7 million in lighting and heating/ventilation/air-conditioning renovations at several schools; $3 million in renovation funds for Columbia's Talbott Springs Elementary School, and a $1 million addition to Glenelg High.

Over the next 10 years, the school system also plans to build a middle school in the Glenelg area and provide additions at several schools.

Many of Howard County's schools are expected to be over capacity by 2004, including 20 of 37 elementary schools, nine of 16 middle schools and eight of 10 high schools, according to the capital plan.

The board-approved 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 expected to approve its final capital request by June 1.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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