Size of new school mulled

Parents, officials object to expanding Eldersburg project

`Need to get on the road'

Commissioners want to increase capacity by 400 to 1,600

April 21, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

The size of the new Century High School in Eldersburg was debated last night at a meeting that was originally called to discuss construction and design plans.

The county commissioners recently recommended the school's capacity be increased by 400 students to 1,600.

School officials and county residents fear that if Century is larger than planned, the state will see no need to fund a new 1,200-student school in Westminster.

"Just about everybody I know is against [the commissioners' plan] -- Westminster needs a new school, too, and deserves to have one," said Karen Dulany of Sykesville, before the meeting at Linton Springs Elementary School. "They shouldn't pit one part of the county against another," said Dulany, who has children in ninth, sixth and first grades.

She said high school "is a total experience, it's not just sitting in class," and a larger school would mean fewer students could participate in extracurricular activities.

That concern was echoed by Gregory C. Eckles, county director of secondary schools, who told the group of about 30 that studies show at-risk students have more problems at large schools and that opportunities for students -- such as drama and athletics -- decrease.

"If a school is too small, you can't offer enough programs to meet students' needs," he said. "A capacity of 1,200 meets the needs of different types of students that we're trying to address."

Area resident Susan Ballas pointed to the shooting spree yesterday at a Denver high school as a reason to be concerned about involving more students in activities and keeping the number of students manageable.

"I think they need to get on the road and go ahead with what's been planned," she said.

The school board is set to meet with the commissioners at 6: 30 p.m. tomorrow in the county office building to discuss the issue, said Gary W. Bauer, president of the school board. Bauer said he is opposed to the commissioners' plan.

"In my opinion it's a way of building one high school instead of two," he said before the meeting. "If they put a 1,600-capacity school there then it will be hard to justify putting a 1,200-capacity school in Westminster."

Gary K. Blanton, vice president of SHW Group Inc., which designed the school, said the school was planned in a manner conducive to expansion but that some areas, such as the 400-space student parking lot, would be more difficult to expand.

The school is slated to have an 850-seat fine arts auditorium, a 400-seat cafeteria and an administrative office at the front entrance where officials can keep an eye on students' comings and goings, Blanton said.

A 24-hour hot line will take calls from people with questions about construction of the school and calls will be returned within 24 hours, said Stephen S. Conley, senior project manager for Bovis Construction Corp. A Web site is tentatively planned that would offer updated construction information.

Kathleen Sanner, county director of school support services, told the audience she and her staff believe the county should go ahead with the 1,200-student plan. New construction plans would delay the opening by one year, she said, moving the opening to fall 2002.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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