School board eyeing plan

Panel examines superintendent's idea for handling growth

$27 million proposal

Officials to study options from board during the summer

June 15, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

In preparation for tomorrow's vote, Anne Arundel County school board members last night closely examined Superintendent Carol S. Parham's $27 million plan to ease school crowding.

Five of the eight board members listened and asked questions as Thomas W. Rhoades, director of school planning and programming, led them through the details of Parham's proposal.

"All we are asking you to do is give us some direction," Rhoades told them, "some options to study over the summer."

Tomorrow night, the board will continue to discuss the plan and its ideas before voting on what options to give Parham's staff to work on. Later this year, the board will make a final decision.

Parham's plan is similar to a recommendation from an independent consultant that found shifting school enrollments will cause severe crowding at some schools over the next 20 years. Under her plan, Belle Grove and Ferndale elementaries will be closed and children will be redistricted to other nearby schools.

About 600 middle and high school students would be redistricted as well as a significant but undetermined number of elementary school children.

Most of the cost of Parham's plan is in school construction -- including two 400-seat additions -- one at North County High School in Linthicum and another at Southern Middle School in Edgewater.

Chesapeake Bay Middle School, which has an enrollment of about 1,700 students, would be divided into two middle schools.

Included in Parham's plan, but not in the $27 million cost estimate, is a new Marley Middle School.

Parham did not propose a 13th high school -- a popular idea among parents in the western county who do not want their children shifted to other schools.

Four years ago, when the board tried to move a group of students out of the mostly white Arundel High School feeder system and into the mostly minority Meade High School, angry parents protested that the move amounted to segregation. The group to be moved was racially mixed, but would have added to the minority population at Meade. Parents filed suit and won. The board eventually dropped an appeal.

According to the consultant's report presented to the school board in February, 23,700 county high school students will attend 12 schools in 2007. That is 1,400 more than in 1997. The number will decline to 21,800 10 years later.

Middle school enrollment will follow the same pattern, peaking at 19,110 by the 2007 school year and then declining to 19,050 in 2017.

If Parham and the board ignore these predictions, students in at least three high schools and two middle schools would attend classes in split shifts for as long as 10 years, the consultant said.

While Parham's plan is similar to the consultant's, the consultant plan would require redistricting up to 3,000 students. It also did not include plans to enlarge cafeterias in schools where additional classroom space would be added. Some students at those schools would be eating lunch as early as 9: 30 a.m.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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