Public school suggested for detention center site

State senator seeks input from community on idea

September 24, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

A state senator sent a letter this week to residents of a northeastern Baltimore County community asking for their thoughts on putting a new public high school on the grounds of a juvenile detention center.

State Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier asked residents of the Cub Hill area for feedback on the idea of putting a new high school on the grounds of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, which houses teenagers committed by the courts and detained youths being held before court hearings.

In an interview yesterday, the Baltimore County Democrat said the idea is "just kind of floating out there," and she wanted to get community input before it goes further.

"The idea is still in its formative stages so I have no details as to what would be the status of the current juvenile facility at Hickey or where exactly on the property a new high school would be located," the letter said.

The site is more than 200 acres.

Klausmeier said she has heard from about 30 residents. Most would support a school on the site only if there were no detention center there.

But two delegates representing the area, Republicans John W.E. Cluster Jr. and Joseph C. Boteler III, said the issue is moot. They wrote a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in early summer expressing interest in using the Hickey grounds for a new high school if the detention facility were to close. The response, they said, was that the juvenile system will continue using the site.

Putting a school on the site with juvenile facilities "would not be an option," Cluster said.

Whether there will even be a new high school is not certain.

A group of community activists, with the support of several elected officials, is pushing for a new school to relieve crowding at Perry Hall, Towson and other high schools. But they have failed to win the backing of County Executive James T. Smith Jr., and the school board has yet to vote on the issue.

Even the staunchest supporters of a new school yesterday were taken aback at the idea of putting it on the Hickey grounds. Walter R. Hayes, chairman of the Northeast Area Educational Advisory Council, laughed at the suggestion.

Rodger C. Janssen, a school board member, said he had not heard of the idea until a reporter left a message. "I've not heard anything that would remotely make me believe that was under consideration," he said.

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