Panel offers schools plan

New elementary, redistricting proposed to ease crowding

Public meeting is Feb. 6

January 24, 2002|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's Board of Education heard a proposal yesterday that the best way to ease crowding in South Carroll schools would be to build an elementary school in Mount Airy and redistrict more than 200 pupils attending Linton Springs and Eldersburg elementary schools.

The recommendations were made by a committee headed by James Doolan, supervisor of transportation.

The recommendations include:

Temporarily incorporating Mount Airy Elementary School fifth-graders into Mount Airy Middle School by using portable classrooms on the middle school grounds.

Redestricting 134 pupils from Linton Springs Elementary School to Winfield Elementary School.

Redistricting 99 pupils from Eldersburg Elementary School to Freedom Elementary School near Eldersburg.

If approved by the board in March, the changes would become effective in September, Doolan said.

Acknowledging that many parents were concerned about the prospect of redistricting, board members encouraged residents to attend a public meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Century High School or go to the "What's New" section of the Carroll County public schools' Web site,

The school system's facilities plan, updated annually, is a blueprint for capital spending and sets priorities for school construction and renovation for the next decade.

Board member C. Scott Stone cautioned that plans for building an elementary school in Mount Airy by 2004 were too optimistic and suggested the school system move extra portables to Mount Airy Middle School.

"It's quite unlikely to build an elementary school in the time discussed," he said.

Also yesterday, Charles I. Ecker, Carroll County's interim superintendent of schools, formally unveiled his $204.2 million proposed operating budget to the Board of Education, a plan that calls for at least $1.8 million more than the school system is likely to receive from local, state and federal governments.

Expenses for opening two high schools account for almost half of the $8.8 million in new expenditures. Second-year costs for Eldersburg's Century High, which opened in August, and start-up costs for Westminster's Winters Mill High, scheduled to open in August, total about $3.6 million.

The budget proposal also includes $2.8 million for increases in employee benefits, $245,000 for increases in property insurance, $220,000 in special education expenses and $250,000 for rising utility costs.

Ecker wants to add $1 million to hire 24 teachers to keep up with growth in a school system that will have gained 550 new students in two years without adding staff. He would like to hire 16 elementary school teachers to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through second grade, and five health teachers to increase planning time for elementary teachers.

The proposal does not include money for staff raises - to which Ecker is committed - until union negotiations have been completed.

Walter F. Brilhart, budget supervisor for Carroll schools, said the system hopes the county will cover the shortfall in school system's proposed operating budget.

The county originally projected that it would contribute $110.6 million to the school system for the next fiscal year, Brillhart said. "If nothing changes, if there's no more state money, no more county money, we would be facing cutting salary increases," he said.

School officials predicted six years ago that 2003 would be difficult financially because of opening two new schools. The slowing economy, fallout from the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, rising costs for medical benefits and higher-than-expected raises in teachers' salaries have contributed to the difficult financial outlook.

The board is scheduled to adopt a budget at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Westminster High.

It will hold two other budget meetings, both at 7 p.m.:

Jan. 29 at Runnymede Elementary.

Feb. 5 at Century High School.

The county budget hearing has been scheduled for May 2 at Westminster High School.

The budget year begins July 1.

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