Construction of additions at two of Baltimore County's most crowded elementary schools should begin soon, after the school board this week approved a contract for the work after repeated delays.
But the additions at Deer Park and Hebbville elementary schools, both in the western part of the county, will not be built for the start of the school year and are unlikely to be ready for pupils and teachers until February.
The additions had been delayed because of ballooning cost estimates, which forced county school officials to scale back the projects and rebid the work.
The lowest previous cost estimate was $450,000 more than had been budgeted, but the new bid is $2 million -- less than the amount set aside by county officials.
Officials plan to build a four-classroom addition at Deer Park and a six-classroom addition at Hebbville, said schools spokesman Charles Herndon.
Hebbville -- with a capacity of 422 pupils -- had an enrollment of 557 pupils in the 1998-1999 school year and is projected to grow to 599 pupils by 2004.
Deer Park has a capacity of 444 pupils, and about 570 were enrolled there in the 1998-1999 school 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.
It has been more than a year since county and school officials approved more than $2 million for the pair of additions, saying they would be ready in January 1999.
As recently as April, school officials expected the additions to open by the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year.
School officials were forced to rethink the project after the lowest bid for the additions, which have been put out to bid as a single project, came in so far over budget.
Under the winning contract, the additions will no longer be modular units using pre-built parts.
They instead will be built from the ground up, and they no longer will have enclosed, heated passageways connecting them to the schools' main buildings.
While parents at both schools have been critical of the delays, they were appreciative that the board approved a contract.
"I want to thank you for putting the addition matter to rest," Michael Franklin, a parent at Deer Park, told the board after its vote.
To help relieve crowding this fall, Deer Park will keep its seven portable classrooms, and Hebbville -- which has one portable classroom -- will receive two more, school officials said.