County board OKs priorities for schools

Building-project list to go to construction committee

$73.3 million total of requests

State to consider plans from all 24 systems in Md.

October 06, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A divided Baltimore County school board approved last night a 31-project list of school construction priorities with a total price tag of $73.3 million to be sent to state officials weighing requests from Maryland's 24 school systems.

The request includes $8.5 million for a new performing-arts center and exhibition hall at Carver Center for Arts and Technology -- the county's performing-arts magnet school, which is the only county high school without an auditorium.

It also includes $10.4 million for a 400-seat addition and renovation project at Kenwood High.

And it included money for projects under way at Woodholme Elementary and Windsor Mill Middle schools.

But the board did not include money for a new high school that many community members have asked for to relieve crowding at Perry Hall, Towson, Kenwood and other high schools in the northeastern and central parts of the county.

Although board member Rodger C. Janssen asked his colleagues to add the new school to the priority list, Mike Goodhues, director of the school system's budget and reporting department, told board members that they cannot ask the state for planning approval or construction money for a school without owning land on which the school can be built.

"The best we can do tonight in this phase is to support that site acquisition," board member Thomas G. Grzymski said, adding, "Which I do."

The site acquisition money -- $3 million allocated in a general category that does not specifically mention any projects -- will be voted on in December when the school board takes up the capital budget request that will go to the county. Last night's vote only included funding requests being forwarded to the state Interagency Committee for School Construction.

Janssen, who has pushed the board to discuss the need for a new high school since being appointed in August, remained undeterred.

He voted in favor of his motion to add the school to the priority list -- even after being told that last night was not the time to make such a request -- and he voted against the motion to send the 31-project list along to the state.

"My intent is to get this started because there seems to be a circle of fingers pointed at each other as to why we can't get this moving," Janssen told his colleagues.

Board member Warren C. Hayman suggested that the board direct the superintendent to complete all the steps necessary before money for a new high school can be requested from the state.

"There are things we need to do to get off the dime," he said.

The board's decision to add $8.5 million to the list of requests for the new auditorium at Carver Center brought cheers from the audience crammed into the board room. Several parents of Carver students have lobbied the board about it in recent weeks.

But with the addition listed as the last of the school board's 31 construction and renovation priorities, it is unlikely that the project will win state planning approval or construction dollars anytime soon.

"Realistically, our state request [before the addition last night of the Carver project] is $65 million," Goodhues told the board. Last year, he said, Baltimore County received $11 million in school construction money from the state -- and that was more than any other school system in Maryland.

Sun staff writer Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

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