A crowded school is left waiting for funding

Stoneleigh Elementary's renovations stay on hold

July 30, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

TOWSON -- Children at Stoneleigh Elementary School could be forced to congregate in a cramped and noisy cafeteria for yet another year while Baltimore County officials figure out how to pay for a proposed addition.

The 70-year-old school's experience is symbolic of the problems facing many older county schools awaiting money for renovations.

"It certainly has some strong competition," said Valerie A. Roddy, public schools senior fiscal analyst. "There are some big-ticket items coming up in 2002, including a new high school in [Owings Mills] New Town."

School board members could come up with enough money for Stoneleigh during the 2000-2001 school year, but that depends on their priorities, Roddy said. The board has decided to spend $2.5 million for roof repairs at six other elementary schools. Districtwide, the board plans to spend $96 million during the 2001 school year on major renovations.

Should Stoneleigh miss out in 2001, the elementary school project could be forced to compete with middle and high school repairs set in 2002 as part of the county's eight-year, $530 million school renovation campaign, Roddy said.

But parents of pupils at Stoneleigh, tucked away in a tidy neighborhood decorated with a proliferation of door garlands and garden flags, won't take no for an answer. They've been pressuring school officials to enlarge the school for years.

This month, Stoneleigh's Parent Teacher Association endorsed a $1.1 million proposal to construct a modern cafeteria and kitchen off the northwest side of the school building.

Although school board members say they're sensitive to Stoneleigh's plight, the high cost could rule out construction of the 5,400-square-foot cafeteria and kitchen area. Three other proposals for Stoneleigh are under consideration.

Parents say the cafeteria addition, although expensive, is needed to accommodate a growing student population. A large number of houses surrounding Stoneleigh have changed owners recently, and as older residents leave the area, young families are moving in.

"There are so many more kids in the neighborhood," said Anne Costigan, who enrolled her two children at Stoneleigh last year. "The school district needs to make these improvements to keep up with the growth."

"The kids have like 20 minutes to eat lunch," Costigan said, referring to the school's lunchtime rotation. "It is rushed, and that took some getting used to."

Another proposal features a 4,600-square-foot addition costing $828,750 that would house pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.

An addition to the school would eliminate the school's four classroom portables, which parents dislike because children don't have easy access to bathrooms.

Less expensive plans -- at $253,750 and $178,750 each -- would reorganize classrooms (by, for example, combining the school's library and computer lab), but they wouldn't solve cafeteria overcrowding.

School Board member John A. Hayden, representing the Stoneleigh district, favors the 4,600-square-foot addition for the school's youngest pupils, he said.

Regardless of which proposal the board selects, Hayden is adamant about noise-proofing the cafeteria, he said.

"Whether fabric or wood, we've got to put something on the walls to quiet the place down," said Hayden, whose three children attended Stoneleigh.

The school board can't waste much time mulling over construction options, he said. Renovation of Stoneleigh's outdated kitchen is set to begin soon. But that work could be delayed or canceled, depending on which of the four renovation options board members choose, he said.

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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