Schools chief to educate public on budget tonight

Ecker seeks comment on plan for renovation, construction projects

Carroll County

September 19, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll schools interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker will hold a public meeting tonight to hear residents' comments on his proposed budget for school construction and renovation, including new schools and additions in the South Carroll-Mount Airy area.

"I think we all realize that there are a lot of needs out there and that our job is to prioritize them," school board President Susan W. Krebs said yesterday. "That's our biggest challenge."

In June, the school board unanimously approved a facilities master plan with gaps and uncertainties about what school construction projects would be planned and when they would be completed to address growth in South Carroll. The annually drafted document is a blueprint for the school system's capital spending and sets priorities for construction and renovation for the next decade.

The plan's holes were filled preliminarily last week when Ecker presented his recommendations to the board for the capital budget. He'll solicit public input at 7 p.m. today at South Carroll High School. The school board is scheduled to vote on the spending plan Sept. 26.

Included in the revised plan are a new elementary school and a new middle school for the South Carroll-Mount Airy area - schools that residents have said are needed to ease classroom crowding that is expected to worsen.

The $10.8 million elementary school is slated to open in August 2004 while the $26.2 million middle school is scheduled for an August 2006 opening.

The recommendation also includes a new proposal for space being vacated at Westminster High School - investing about $1 million to convert empty classrooms into a staff development and resource center.

Carroll school officials had proposed reducing the high school's capacity from 2,030 to 1,550 to make room for more career and technology programs and to funnel more students to the attendance area of Winters Mill High School under construction. Based on that plan, in part, state school planners in May granted planning approval and awarded $5 million in construction funding for the long-rejected high school project.

It is unclear whether the change would affect state funding for Winters Mill High.

Additions to Eldersburg's Liberty High and Century High, which opened last month, are scheduled for January 2006 and January 2007, respectively. An addition and renovation to South Carroll High is planned for August 2008.

Krebs said the board will need to weigh each project against county tax dollars that are available for school construction and renovation.

"I don't think anybody is going to argue the need of any of these projects," she added. "It's going to be the prioritizing of them."

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