Howard Week

January 26, 2003

Howard high schools to move to uniform 7-credit schedule

After nearly three years of inquiry and study, Howard County's high schools will begin moving next year to a uniform seven-credit school schedule from the array of markedly different itineraries they now offer.

The change thrills most administrators, who have been concerned about the confusion, lost teaching hours and the occasional missed educational opportunities caused by having four different high school schedules. But not everybody is happy.

"Once we started doing the math, it dawned on us that there were some serious problems," said Stephanie Coakley, who leads the Gifted and Talented Education Program Advisory Committee with Sara Seifter.

Administrators say the common arrangement will enhance elective opportunities, make school transfers less difficult and create a more cohesive school system.

HCC remains optimistic in plans, despite budget

Howard Community College does not intend to let anxiety about the economy derail it from making plans for new buildings, more faculty and increased growth.

In a proposed $47 million budget, the school is asking for nearly $15.7 million in county aid and hoping the state sticks to a formula that would mean more than $8 million to support operating costs.

But the proposed state budget released by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signaled trouble ahead for Howard's ambitious plans.

Bowhunters enlisted to cull deer at Blandair

The 140 deer that live on Blandair wander freely on the 300-acre future park in the center of suburban Columbia, even crossing busy Route 175 in bunches, according to hunters who have seen their tracks.

But without natural predators, they have been eating up to 20 percent of the feed corn that farmer Mark Mullinix grows on rented fields on the Blandair property along Oakland Mills Road. So Howard County has applied for a state permit to send in experienced bowhunters to thin the pesky herd.

Robert Yohe, 79, said he has seen deer jump the chain-link fence around his pre-Columbia Oakland Mills Road home next to the farm fields, and use a hoof to tip a bird feeder in his back yard to eat the seed. He and others who live in the area do not object to the hunt.

Russell suggests option for CA charitable gifts

The Columbia Association board of directors is expected to give out nearly $200,000 in grants to local causes in the fiscal year that will begin in May. Now, one member of the board wants to give Columbia residents a chance to decide whether their money should be donated.

Board member Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills proposes that when Columbia residents pay their annual lien bills, they be offered a check-off option, like the one on tax forms, that allows them to give a dollar or two of their lien payment to charitable organizations.

Instead of the board doling out its usual annual grants, the amount of money donated would be based on what lien payers indicated. The board would still decide who would receive the money.

Some board members fear Russell's idea would lead to the end of the association's charitable giving.

Residents to appeal ruling on church expansion

Neighbors of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Savage plan to appeal a decision by the Howard County Board of Appeals to approve an expansion of the church that they feel would tower over their single-family homes.

The board voted, 3-1, Tuesday evening in favor of approving a conditional-use petition for the 11,400-square-foot reconstruction of the church at Lincoln and Woodward streets.

Board members James Pfefferkorn, Albert J. Hayes and Pat Patterson voted to approve the plan and grant the variance with conditions listed in the recommendation from the Department of Planning and Zoning's evaluation.

Board Chairman Robert C. Sharps voted to approve the conditional-use request but deny the variance. Board member Jacqueline Scott was absent.

Ellicott City leads county in home construction

Howard County's boomtown is an old town.

Construction began on more homes in Ellicott City than in any other place in the county between fall 2001 and fall last year, according to a newly released report tracking local development.

County officials issued building permits for 1,642 homes during those 12 months, and 644 - roughly 40 percent - were in Ellicott City, a community that predates the Declaration of Independence.

In Columbia, center of the county's fast growth in recent decades, half as many permits were issued as in its older neighbor to the north.

Board of Education calls for revisions to calendar

The Howard County Board of Education sent next year's proposed school calendar back to the committee for revision Thursday night and heartily embraced an ambitious transfer-tax plan that could raise millions for school construction - a welcome prospect considering the state is offering little in the way of capital funding.

School board members also learned from a pest management report that nearly 3,000 stinging-insect nests had been found and destroyed on county school grounds since late July.

The board thought the calendar under consideration for the 2003-2004 school year had too many half-days. From 12 to 20 of the 180 days of instruction time allotted were listed as half-days.

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