Mount Airy wins elementary school

Enrollment estimates persuade board to OK plans for 2004 opening

November 29, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Prompted by new student enrollment projections that predict rapid growth in Mount Airy, the Carroll school board amended its school construction and renovation plan yesterday to build an elementary school in Mount Airy rather than in the south-central area of the county.

The $12.38 million school would house about 550 pupils and is scheduled to be completed in August 2004.

The board also voted to build an addition to an elementary school in the southeast area of the county and to accelerate plans for a South Carroll-area middle school, moving its completion date up by a year to August 2005.

The location of a new elementary school in the southern half of the county has been a point of contention since the Board of Education began drafting its annual facilities master plan in April.

Mount Airy residents have lobbied the board to build at least one more elementary school in their community - and ideally a middle and high school as well - to stem crowding that they expect will worsen as additional housing developments sprout where farms once were.

The first proposal called for new elementary schools in the southwest and southeast areas of the county, although school officials warned that state school planners would be unlikely to approve and contribute money to both.

Those new schools were put on hold in June while a committee was charged with studying school needs in South Carroll and Mount Airy.

The group drafted a "miniplan" with short- and long-term proposals to relieve classroom crowding, including adjusting attendance boundary lines of the six area elementary schools and building one elementary school and one middle school in the area.

Still, some Mount Airy parents complained that their town's school needs were being grouped with those of South Carroll.

Enrollment growing

The plan changed again when new enrollment projections - released this month - showed that growth in Mount Airy and the southwest corner of the county was outpacing growth farther east near Sykesville and Eldersburg, said Al Eilbacher, a school facilities planner.

This year, 810 pupils attend Mount Airy Elementary School, which was built for 666. About 880 pupils are expected to attend next year, and about 1,000 are expected the year after that. Enrollment is projected to approach 1,100 for the 2004-2005 school year.

`We've been listened to'

Mount Airy resident Michele Johnson, who co-founded Mount Airy Citizens for Tomorrow, celebrated yesterday's news.

"I feel really great," she said. "I feel like finally we've been listened to, and I'm glad that the decision-makers see eye to eye with us. They see that what we've said all along is reality."

`Need an agressive schedule'

Johnson and others will turn their attention toward persuading county commissioners and state school planners to fund the new elementary and middle schools on the timeline approved yesterday by the school board.

"Just because we approved this [plan], we still need an aggressive schedule for site acquisition to get this elementary school in Mount Airy," school board President Susan W. Krebs said. "We need to keep the ball rolling."

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