New plan for Spring Garden

Carroll County: Belated objection to Hampstead school expansion requires another try for state OK.

June 09, 2000

HERE'S ANOTHER county school construction problem where nobody wins and the children lose. There's no simple way out.

The school board planned to build a 150-pupil addition to Spring Garden Elementary School in Hampstead. It got state funding approval, spent more than $80,000 on design and preliminary work -- and then the town government refused to sign off on the project.

Hampstead officials approved the idea a year ago, but refused to give the final go-ahead last week because the already crowded core facilities (cafeteria, library, rest rooms, gym) would not be increased at all.

So the elementary school, built in 1991 with a capacity of 600 pupils, will continue to struggle with a camp of portable classrooms, mid-morning lunch periods and an excessive enrollment of more than 750 young children. (Not long ago, it had 850 elementary students.)

Now the unpalatable, protracted alternatives are reapply for state funding for at least twice the current $1.25 million cost, or wait until Hampstead's southern area population grows enough to warrant a second elementary school.

The building's layout makes expansion of existing central facilities difficult and costly. It was never designed for expansion, for housing a mega-school. Yet the school had portables in the yard almost as soon as it opened.

Hampstead officials approved the rapid subdivision expansion that has exacerbated the problem. School authorities were well aware of the community's growth plans. The problem did not suddenly spring up in the past year.

Making the best of a bad situation, the school board and the county should go back to the state for approval of an expanded project at Spring Garden. Town officials had better be fully on board. Space is available for reconfiguration; a year's delay is acceptable.

Spring Garden is a good school, thanks to quality staff. It deserves better, permanent facilities and stronger governmental support.

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