Additions to schools might be delayed

Threat to construction angers county parents

May 06, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Parents from two of Baltimore County's most crowded elementary schools are angry that planned additions might be delayed because of ballooning cost estimates.

"We need the classrooms," said Lisa Cohen, PTA president of Deer Park Elementary School. "We already have seven classes outside the school in portable classrooms, and if we don't get the addition on time, we're going to need more."

A year ago, county and school officials approved more than $2 million for 100-pupil additions to be built at Deer Park and Hebbville elementary schools. At the time, officials said the additions were expected to open in January 1999.

Hebbville -- with a capacity of 422 pupils -- has an enrollment of 557 pupils this year and is projected to grow to 599 pupils by 2004.

Deer Park has a capacity of 444 pupils, and about 570 are enrolled there this year. Enrollment at Deer Park is expected to grow to 787 pupils by 2004, though much of the increase will be relieved by an elementary school to be built during the next few years in Owings Mills.

As recently as last month, school officials expected the additions to open by the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year.

The school board has approved a $9,057 contract with an engineering firm to oversee construction of the additions at Deer Park, Hebbville and three other county elementary schools.

But when school officials received the bids for the additions at Deer Park and Hebbville, they discovered that the lowest bid was $450,000 more than the amount budgeted for the projects, said schools spokesman Charles Herndon.

The construction contract, which was to have been brought before the board at its April 20 meeting, was pulled off the board's agenda at the last minute.

"We're not sure why there was a cost overrun," Herndon said. He said that it is not clear how long the projects might be delayed, and that they might be completed by the fall.

School and county officials hope to decide this month whether to try to reduce the size of the project to cut costs or to find a way to transfer money from other projects.

Parents from both elementary schools say they plan to attend tonight's school board meeting to tell the board which option they prefer.

"The county has extra money right now," Cohen said. "They should find a way to transfer the money and get the additions built as soon as possible."

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