School construction choices

Carroll County: Growth spurs need for new schools in south, but priorities must be carefully chosen.

September 22, 2001

CENTURY High School opened this year to meet overcrowding in the South Carroll area. Winters Mill High opens next year in Westminster, which will also relieve enrollment pressures in the southeast.

Meantime, enrollment at Westminster High will be cut 25 percent to create a technology center there. More importantly, it's to justify the need to build Winters Mill.

But what are they asking for in South Carroll? New additions to three existing high schools to create even more student capacity. One of those is Century - which opened just last month.

Enough is enough. That's the kind of costly thinking that enrages taxpayers and endangers the more pressing school construction needs of Carroll County.

What's more, Westminster High will have so much empty space that there's talk of putting a "staff resource" center in the void. Why not use that space for more kids instead of building additions?

The additions proposals came from a panel of local, county and state representatives studying southern Carroll school needs. Their report will be used in updating the 10-year building plan.

South Carroll does need a new elementary school and a new middle school. Mount Airy Elementary also faces tremendous overcrowding, which won't be easily served by those two new buildings.

Significant redistricting will be needed to better use classroom space in the southern part of Carroll County. But that is easier to accomplish by shifting high school students than by busing younger children farther from their homes.

The committee was on target in pointing out that the county has done a poor job in planning for growth. That blame is also shared by the municipalities, which have blindly approved subdivisions and annexations without regard for school capacity.

The committee also urged a development freeze in South Carroll until school capacity planning is improved. That's an admirable goal, but one certain to be ignored by government officials.

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