School board considers crowding

Superintendent offers $27 million proposal

May 28, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Two elementary schools will be shut down, more than 600 students will shift into new schools and additions will be built onto two high schools if the Anne Arundel County School Board goes along with Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposal for dealing with the next 20 years of overcrowding.

The problem will take $27 million to fix under her plan, derived from an independent consultant's examination of the schools. The board is scheduled to discuss overcrowding and what to do about it during a 6 p.m. meeting June 14.

The board will first hold a public hearing on Parham's plan at 7 p.m. June 8 in the board room at school headquarters on Riva Road.

"I think we have come up with a good solution, and now I need to know what direction the board wants me to go in," Parham said yesterday.

Her proposal is $10 million more expensive than the recommendations from SHW Group Inc., but calls for more modest redistricting, affecting fewer students.

About 600 middle and high school students would be redistricted under Parham's plan as well as a "significant" number of elementary school pupils, said Kenneth Lawson, an associate school superintendent. He said the number of elementary pupils affected would not be determined until September, well after the school board discusses Parham's recommendation, listens to the public and devises a final plan.

Cafeteria left out

Parham and Lawson said that while the consultant's recommendation was cheaper, it did not consider state guidelines for school capacity, nor did it add cafeteria space in schools where the firm suggested putting more classrooms and more students. Some students at schools with smaller cafeterias would have to eat lunch as early as 9: 40 a.m.

"And that is completely unacceptable," Parham said.

Parham's proposal does not include plans for a 13th high school in the western part of the county. She acknowledged that because of fast growth in west county, a new high school probably would be needed in the future. She suggested another study in 2005.

Too disruptive

While there are many supporters of a new high school, Parham said, it would be too disruptive to build a high school and set up an entirely new feeder system of elementary and middle schools. That would disrupt the lives of the 7,300 pupils who would be redistricted -- and of their parents.

"That is just unacceptable right now," she said.

Most of the $27 million under Parham's proposal would go to construction -- including, foremost, a 400-seat addition to North County High School during the 2000-2001 school year, Lawson said.

The nearly 1,800 students at the school would attend class in split shifts while building was going on.

At some point, Belle Grove and Ferndale elementary schools, part of the North County High feeder system, would be closed, and pupils would be redistricted to nearby schools. Both schools are among the oldest in the county and have declining enrollments. Closing them and shifting students is part of Parham's plan to make better use of space at other schools.

Southern Middle addition

The next project would be a 400-seat addition to Southern Middle School. No changes to elementary or middle school boundaries are planned.

The next step would be to rebuild Marley Middle School in the Glen Burnie feeder system, then an addition, of a size to be determined, at Northeast High School in Pasadena.

Chesapeake Bay Middle School, where about 1,700 pupils attend class, would be divided into two separate middle schools, as it was between 1976 and 1981.

Parham said the school has become too large to continue as one school with one set of administrators and teachers.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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