Town Council backs mayor on school crowding

They favor enlarging Spring Garden rooms, oppose new addition

Board meets tonight

Hampstead

May 10, 2000|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Hampstead Town Council members supported Mayor Christopher M. Nevin's concerns about continued crowding at Spring Garden Elementary School though the school system plans to build an addition to hold 150 extra pupils.

The school is built for 600 pupils, though 755 now attend.

Instead of building six extra classrooms, council members and a parent who attended the meeting suggested enlarging the cafeteria and other common areas, even if that means continuing to use portable classrooms.

Although town officials approved plans for the addition a year ago, Nevin froze the project last month as school officials sought to begin construction.

Nevin said last night that he would wait until speaking with Spring Garden parents before deciding whether to sign the plans. Parents are expected to speak to the Board of Education at its meeting tonight at board headquarters on North Court Street in Westminster.

Ray Prokop, supervisor of construction for Carroll County schools, came to last night's meeting hoping to get county officials to sign off on the addition.

Prokop said that enlarging the school's core, rather than building new classrooms, would be a complicated change, involving a year of design at the risk of losing state money for the project.

Parent Richard Tait also preferred to enlarge the school's cafeteria, library and fine arts rooms.

Said Tait: "If we build that addition and the quality of the education doesn't improve, it's a waste of money."

Spring Garden was built in 1991 as the town population ballooned with new developments to the north, south, east and west. It sits on Boxwood Drive in the Roberts Field residential development at the south end of town, and is one of two elementary schools that serve the town, which has a population of 4,500.

Nevin and several council members have children who have attended there. Nevin's wife is vice president of the school's PTA.

The addition would replace the eight portable classrooms, but would not alleviate the strain on the building's cafeteria, library and other common areas. In fact, Nevin said, the addition would make the strain permanent.

Nevin said he became further concerned when school officials redrew district lines that would add 45 pupils to Spring Garden's boundary lines. The addition was especially bad, he said, because Spring Garden parents had been told the new lines would reduce the school's enrollment by 45.

School officials can't guarantee that they won't put portable classrooms at the building even after the addition is built. The school has had as many as 855 pupils in the past, with up to 10 portable classrooms.

Nevin also was concerned about the exterior of the addition. Plans for the roof and the facade were altered to keep the project closer to its original $1.073 million budget, Prokop said. The lowest bid is $1.366 million.

The lowest bid includes using a less expensive block exterior instead of the brick that the original building is made of. That bid also includes a less expensive flat roof instead of a sloped roof that would have hidden mechanical equipment. Restoring those two items would cost $60,000 to $113,000, Prokop said.

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