Parents ask board to help school

Bushy Park is county's most-crowded elementary

But budget defers improvements

Howard County

October 08, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Parents of the children at Howard County's most-crowded elementary school lobbied the school board at a budget hearing last night to restore money in next year's proposed capital spending plan to expand or replace the building.

Most of the comments during the public hearing on Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin's $87.4 million proposalconcerned the recommendation to defer a solution for crowded Bushy Park Elementary in Glenwood for another year because of issues surrounding its septic system.

A dozen parents expressed frustration with the delay, saying their children are crammed into classrooms.

"We need relief and we need it now," said Stephen Poltorak, parent of a first-grader at Bushy Park.

More than two dozen students and parents from Mount Hebron High School - wearing school shirts and bringing along their costumed Viking mascot - asked the board for money to renovate their aging school, which has cracking tiles and floors, a lack of storage and an old heating and air-conditioning system.

The group showed the school board a student-made video illustrating the problems.

Money is not included for Mount Hebron in the proposed budget or the school system's long-range plans.

"Mount Hebron was designed as a middle school and is not up to par with other high schools," said Chris Rodkey, a junior.

The bulk of the proposed budget goes to building new schools and major renovations: $8.5 million to open a new elementary school in 2006 in western Howard; $17.2 million to renovate Howard High School, which opened in 1951; and $23.3 million to build an elementary school in northeastern Howard by 2007.

Other projects include $4.6 million for an addition to and renovation of Glenelg High School; $4.7 million to create classrooms for full-day kindergarten; $1.2 million to add two classrooms at Lime Kiln Middle School; and $18.5 million in renovations at various schools, including Guilford, Running Brook, Centennial Lane, Clarksville and Lisbon elementaries.

Cousin's proposal also calls for cutting money for a new northern elementary school that would have opened in 2008 - a trim that resulted from revised enrollment projections.

But growth continues in western Howard County, where Bushy Park is located.

The school, built in 1976, is designed for 440 children in kindergarten through fifth-grade, but preliminary enrollment figures put this school year's population at 669.

Renovation plans have been hampered by issues related to the need for permit approval from the state Department of the Environment to expand the septic system to accommodate a larger school.

Still, parents said, their children can't wait until 2008 for Bushy Park to be expanded or replaced with a new building.

"We're going to ask you to hang in there with us and work with us," said Courtney Watson, the school board chairman.

School officials are seeking approval for two more portable classrooms, and some relief is expected when a new western elementary school in Dayton opens in 2006.

Last year, the school board trimmed former Superintendent John R. O'Rourke's record-breaking $149.8 million proposal, which was then further cut to $95.7 million by County Executive James N. Robey.

Deborah Wessner, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, said her organization "is very pleased to see that this year's proposed capital budget is fiscally responsible and reflects realism and good sense."

The school board has scheduled a vote Tuesday on the proposed capital budget.

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