Proposal excludes new county high school

Superintendent is seeking $156 million for buildings

September 22, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County schools superintendent Joe A. Hairston proposed a $156 million construction budget last night that includes money for two new schools but does not directly answer calls for a new high school in the northeastern area of the county.

The 2005-2006 capital budget proposal presented to the school board last night includes money for the construction of Woodholme Elementary and Windsor Mill Middle schools - already in progress - and roof replacements at 11 schools. The request also includes $3 million for miscellaneous "land acquisition," but school system spokesman Charles A. Herndon stressed that the money is not designated for any specific parcel or project.

Before the school district can request any money for a new high school to relieve overcrowding in Perry Hall, Towson and other growing areas, it must acquire land on which to build.

In addition, the budget request contains money for the renovation of Sudbrook Magnet, Arbutus and seven other middle schools, and a 400-seat addition to Kenwood High, one of the schools whose enrollment would be offset by a new high school.

The board must vote on the capital budget request before submitting it to the county and the state. The board will discuss its construction priorities at a work session at 7 p.m. today at 6901 Charles St. in Towson.

The board has been under community pressure in recent months to build a new high school to relieve crowding in the northeastern and central parts of the county. At its Sept. 8 meeting, nearly a dozen politicians, including County Council members and state lawmakers representing Baltimore County, voiced their support for a new school.

After studying enrollment trends for six months, a consultant concluded last year that a new high school is needed. County Executive James T. Smith Jr., however, has questioned the need for a new school. The board has not acted on the issue.

Proponents of a new school have disputed a county estimate that the project would cost $70 million, saying the price would be far less.

At the request of Baltimore County's General Assembly delegation, the Maryland Department of Planning recently compiled a list of state-owned property in northeastern and central Baltimore County large enough to fit a high school. It identified 10 sites, though it did not review their suitability - only whether they are large enough to hold a school.

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