Glenelg High expansion gains urgency

County officials stress importance of quicker action

`Need to get started'

Schools leaders see few easy options in building addition

April 09, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After more than a year without apparent progress, frustrated Howard County officials are joining angry Glenelg High School parents in pressing school officials to more quickly build a 400-seat addition at the school.

Originally due to open in August, the addition has a cloudy future at best as the county scrambles to supply enough new seats to meet an expected wave of high school students predicted to jam classrooms in a few years.

County Executive James N. Robey announced plans last week to build a new, 12th high school by 2005, but the Glenelg addition is critical for helping to cope with an influx expected to produce 2,000 more students than seats by decade's end.

School board members agree they need to revisit the issue, but none has a quick fix. The county can't build the addition without some way to handle the wastewater because no public sewers exist in rural Glenelg.

And every option has produced determined opposition. An adjoining landowner refuses to sell more acreage to allow expansion of the school's septic system, and others oppose building a $2 million wastewater-treatment plant either at Glenelg - the current board choice - or nearby at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary.

"If there was an easy solution, we would have already adopted it," associate school superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said.

He does plan to check on one other possibility, he said - cleaning treated wastewater by using it to grow aquatic plants and fish - a process a Carroll County science teacher said would make it drinkable, and cleaner than any stream in Howard County.

Cousin told the County Council last week that the school board's decision in July to build a wastewater-treatment plant at Glenelg and pipe the treated water into the Triadelphia Reservoir still looks like "a long, drawn-out process, and a litigious one that may take several years."

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which claims rights over the reservoir's water, opposes that decision, a spokeswoman said. Residents around Triadelphia Elementary say they'll go to court to block a plant near them, and 91-year-old Mae B. Musgrove is just as determined not to sell what's left of her family's adjoining farm to the county. The Musgroves have sold land three times to the county for the school.

Cousin's gloomy assessment prompted council Chairman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, to suggest that maybe the fastest course would be to condemn adjoining farmland against the owner's will - something western county Republican Councilman Allan H. Kittleman later said he's dead-set against.

Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat, wondered whether the money for the addition could be used for something else in the interim. And some school board members are wondering whether the addition will ever be built.

Later, Robey said he has "stressed the urgency of doing something" as quickly as possible.

School board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt agreed. "I think we need to make some decisions. We really need to get started," she said.

Schuchardt favors building the plant at Triadelphia Elementary, she said, though condemnation is also an option if the county has no other choice.

With enrollment 100 students more than the rated capacity of 931, and with more growth predicted, Glenelg High needs more seats but has no place to put the estimated 36,000 gallons per day of wastewater an expanded school would produce.

"It's really not just crowding. It's the uncertainty of the future that's so frustrating," said Terry Chaconas, president of Glenelg's Parent Teacher Student Association.

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