Regional special education centers for children grouped by age and additional relocatable classrooms are among recommendations included in the Anne Arundel County schools' proposed $78.2 million capital budget.
School board members heard details about these and other proposals at a workshop last night, and will have testimony on the recommendations at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Estimates for school construction were affected by changes in the way the state Department of Education calculates the number of seats in a school, said the county's Assistant Superintendent Gregory V. Nourse.
Several board members questioned proposals included in the budget to increase the capacity of some high schools, suggesting a study of redistricting to see whether it could provide more seats and perhaps more diversity in classrooms.
"It should not be how long the bus ride is, but what is at the end of the ride," said member Eugene Peterson.
The proposed special education changes have been discussed for more than four years, but this is the first year they have been added to the priority list, said Diane A. Black, director of special education.
Three Anne Arundel schools -- Marley Glen in Glen Burnie, Ruth Parker Eason in Millersville and Central Special in Edgewater -- serve students ages 3 to 21 who have a variety of learning and physical disabilities.
At yesterday's meeting, school system administrators proposed using $500,000 to put children ages 3 to 8 at Marley Glen, and those ages 9 to 21 at Ruth Parker Eason.
Central Special would remain unchanged, although administrators are considering housing a program for 3- to 5-year-olds there in a modular addition. The change would require moving furniture to accommodate the younger children and improving safety.
"We could focus our efforts on a small group of kids and be much more specialized," Black said. "It's purely to provide students with the best education we possibly can."
The change would appear to be an effort to provide more efficient delivery of services and equipment for areas such as physical education and the media center, said Frank L. Wise, a Severna Park parent who follows special education issues. "You can certainly concentrate more age-appropriate library resources if you've got a more concentrated age population that you're serving."
Also moving up on the budget priority list is $10 million for additional movable classrooms needed at schools where all-day kindergarten and prekindergarten programs would be added. State law mandates that school systems offer full-day kindergarten for all young children by 2007.
About one-third of the county's 77 elementary schools have full-day kindergarten.
"The clock is ticking," said Barbara Griffith, director of early-childhood education. "The 2007 deadline has not moved, and we still have that in sight."
The budget recommendation also moves up studies to modernize, enlarge or replace buildings at four schools -- Severna Park Middle, and North Glen, Arnold and Germantown elementaries -- to 2009 and 2010 budgets.