Build the new high school

Carroll County: Westminster school is needed now despite worries about state reimbursement.

March 28, 2000

AMID THE indecision over whether to build a second high school for the Westminster area are three main concerns: too many empty seats in some schools; the $35 million cost and whether the state will pay its share; and a better location than the selected Cranberry Station site.

The Carroll school board is ready to build the long-planned facility, to remedy overcrowding at Westminster High and correct the painful faults of that unmanageable mega-school.

The board earmarked $2 million for preliminary work on the Cranberry site.

The county commissioners, elected in November 1998, have approved the site and agreed to the current price tag. So their decision should be clear.

But new enrollment projections predict a student decline in future years. That has inspired second thoughts among the commissioners; the state might not pay if the new school has too many empty seats, they fear, and the local system could be stuck with the entire bill.

Enrollment projections by school systems are notoriously imprecise.

But there's no reason to expect that this year's projected decline is any more reliable than last year's projection of rising enrollments.

The solution is not in more portable classrooms, or unwieldy additions. Despite the objections from South Carroll, there is a present need for a new high school in the Westminster area.

Westminster High is overcrowded; even at its 2,000-student capacity, that population is too large to provide the school experience and learning opportunities that we want for our children.

Built as a way to save money, this mega-school is close to unmanageable. It should be downsized, with the extra space used as a technology training center, as the school board proposes.

The county commissioners need to stop dragging their feet and finally approve the new 1,600-student high school.

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