Westminster parents gird for second round in their fight with county for new high school

Potential for further delay spurs community action

January 03, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

For Westminster parents, it's a bad case of deja vu.

Last month, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended to the county commissioners that the opening of the new Westminster high school be delayed by two years.

Westminster folks say the decision brings to mind the showdown in spring 1997, when the Westminster and South Carroll communities clashed over which should get a new high school first.

School officials had long planned to open the new school in Westminster in 2001, but the South Carroll group argued that crowding in their area was more acute, and they would not settle for additions on the two existing high schools -- South Carroll and Liberty. As a result, the board delayed opening a second high school in Westminster for at least a year.

Now, the potential for another delay has spurred the Westminster community into action.

"We're just incredulous that this is even happening again," said Robin Kable of Westminster, who argued in 1997 against switching the location of the county's next high school. "You look in the schools and see the need is obvious."

With approximately 2,500 students, Westminster High School is one of the largest high schools in the Baltimore area. By 2003, administrators say, the school's enrollment may be close to 3,000.

"If we delay it another year, we've run out of room to put portables, and the core areas [hallways, gymnasiums and cafeterias] are impossibly overcrowded," said Kathleen Sanner, Carroll's director of school support services.

The planning commission's recommendation to delay a new Westminster high school is included in the panel's comments on the county's proposed capital improvement plan. The spending plan, which covers fiscal years 2000 to 2005, has been forwarded to the county commissioners, who may accept or reject the planning commission's recommendations.

Although the previous Board of County Commissioners supported the school board's construction schedule, it's unclear what position the new board will take.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge said they would not make their decisions until the latest enrollment projections are available.

"If the indications are those students are going to be out there, then we need to provide the school for them," Dell said.

Commissioner Robin Frazier, who opposed building the new Westminster high school when she was a member of the planning commission, could not be reached for comment.

Planning commission members who supported delaying the new Westminster high school said their decision was based in part on the fact that school officials did not furnish them with enrollment projections for the next 10 years.

Pub Date: 1/03/99

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