Meeting focuses on size of school

Goal is expansion without delays for Century High project

April 23, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The size of the planned Century High School in South Carroll was the focus last night of a lengthy meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education.

After three hours of discussion, the two boards directed school officials to analyze the $28 million project and determine "what can be done today to improve and expand the facility without impacting the construction schedule."

The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2001.

The commissioners proposed last week increasing the school's capacity by 400 students to 1,600, a plan the five-member school board did not support.

At a meeting in South Carroll last week, school officials and county residents raised concerns that a larger Century High would mean a loss in state funding for a new 1,200-student high school in Westminster.

Under the plan outlined by the two boards last night, only Century High's cafeteria and media center, and possibly the fine arts center, would be expanded. The school's classroom capacity -- 200,000 square feet of instructional space -- would not be changed.

"It is my understanding that the state commitment [to the new Westminster High] would not change if the number of classrooms at Century High does not change," Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services, told the boards.

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Julia Walsh Gouge made it clear last night that they support building the Westminster High School, a project that Commissioner Donald I. Dell also favors.

"There has been a lot of confusion, people saying that we're trying to increase the capacity of Century High to avoid building Westminster High," said Gouge. "That is not true. Commissioner Frazier and I are committed to building the Westminster school."

Westminster High is expected to cost about $29.4 million.

The commissioners are set to seek construction bids for Century High in two months.

Century High was planned last year in response to rapid development in South Carroll. The growth in the county's most populous area has strained Liberty High School, where 1,605 students are enrolled this year, more than 400 students over capacity.

Liberty was built for 1,200 students. It is so crowded that it has one-way corridors and is surrounded by at least a dozen portable classrooms.

Gary K. Blanton, vice president of SHW Group Inc., which designed the school, has said Century High was planned in a manner that could accommodate expansion.

School board members originally protested any changes in the Century High project, saying a redesign would lead to construction delays that would worsen conditions at Liberty, predicted to be 566 students over capacity in 2001, the year Century High is scheduled to open.

It was not known last night how much the proposed changes would cost. School officials are expected to have those figures within a week. The two boards expect to meet Wednesday to analyze the cost of amending the construction plans.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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