Elementary, high school projects make next-year priority list for construction

Action by the board affects facilities in northeast area

Carroll County

September 23, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Carroll County school officials pushed up yesterday plans for opening another elementary school and approved the building of a northeast area high school as two of its top priorities on the system's list of construction projects.

While the special board meeting was not open to public comment, about two dozen parents -- dressed in the red-and-black colors of North Carroll High School -- attended to demonstrate their support for making the high school a key item on the capital improvement list.

After a meeting last week, where board members approved a proposal to build the county's eighth high school, parents said it was vital to have a new high school among the top three projects. They said it is the only way to ensure that state education officials will seriously consider the county's request for state financial support of the project. They vowed to continue showing up at meetings to show their commitment to getting a school built to relieve crowding at North Carroll High.

Parents were surprised, however, when board members voted to move the elementary school into one of the top three projects for next year.

Ebb Valley Elementary, which also is planned for the northeast area of the county, was scheduled to open in 2009. But the board's action yesterday means the elementary school would open in 2008.

"This is better than we expected," said Carmela Guthart, president of the North Carroll Middle School PTO. "What they just did was address the needs of all students, from [kindergarten to 12th grade] in that area."

"Our immediate need was the high school, but the elementary school was right behind it," she said. "They are two totally different needs."

Major projects

The change means that school officials will now have to be advocates for two major building projects in their budget requests from state education officials for the next fiscal year, beginning in July.

The budget request will be forwarded to state education officials by early next month for review. After a lengthy process of reviews and appeals, the state is expected to make its decisions by May.

"We're going to have to fight for another project a little earlier than we had planned," said Ray Prokop, facilities director for the school system.

At the top of the projects list is construction to accommodate full-day kindergarten, a state requirement that must be met by the 2007-2008 school year.

Four of the county's 21 elementary schools -- Taneytown, William Winchester, Robert Moton and Cranberry Station -- each house one full-day kindergarten classroom. The plan is to add the program at four more schools next year and phase in the remaining 13 schools in 2006 and 2007.

Ten elementary schools are expected to require additions to make room for full-day kindergartners. Construction of those additions is planned over two years. Other schools will need only renovations.

Technology center

Board members also raised concerns that the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, as well as a similar program offered at South Carroll High, have been neglected over the years.

"We need to move more quickly," said board member Tom Hiltz. "This time next year, we need to have a better idea of the long-range plan" for those programs.

In response to these concerns, board members voted to move up by one year a study of the career-focused centers, which means it would be done next year.

A committee has recommended a comprehensive review of the courses and facilities to determine possible changes needed to accommodate new programs at the schools.

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