Funding for new schools is OK'd

Allocations made for western, northeastern elementaries

Bushy Park work won't be deferred

$87.4 million capital budget also includes smaller projects

Howard County

October 13, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school board approved last night an $87.4 million capital budget for next fiscal year that includes money for two new elementary schools and major renovations at older buildings.

The request includes $8.5 million to complete a western elementary school that would open in 2006, and $13.3 million for a northeastern elementary school scheduled to be completed by 2007.

It also includes $10 million to either expand or replace Bushy Park Elementary, an item that had been deferred for another year under Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin's submitted proposal because of difficulties surrounding the septic system.

But school board members said they want to be ready in case approval from the state Department of the Environment to expand the septic system comes through quicker than school officials expect.

Parents pressed the school board for a more immediate solution; as a result, it shifted $10 million allocated for the new northeastern elementary to the Bushy Park project. That money would be made up in the fiscal 2007 budget.

The budget also goes to fixing older facilities, including $4.6 million for a much-delayed addition and renovation at Glenelg High School and $17.2 million to renovate Howard High School.

Responding to pleas from the Mount Hebron High School community, the school board also voted to include money to renovate the aging building in the school system's long-term capital plans.

More specifically, $1.7 million in planning money would be added in the fiscal year 2007 budget, with about $17 million in construction included as a line item for 2008.

"I'm anxious to do something as soon as possible at Mount Hebron," said board member James O'Donnell.

Study pending

The money for Mount Hebron is contingent on whether funds would be available and on a $1.4 million feasibility study of the condition and modernization needs of all schools to help the board set priorities.

Nearly 50 Mount Hebron parents and students attended last week's public hearing, where they unveiled a video produced by students showing cracking tiles and floors, a lack of storage, tattered stage curtains in the auditorium and temperature readings to demonstrate a fickle heating and air-conditioning system.

Mount Hebron PTA President Cindy Ardinger said last night she was pleased to see the board recognizing the school's needs, though she would have liked to have seen the money set aside for next year's budget.

In the meantime, the system's chief operating officer, Raymond Brown, told the school board that some minor repair work at Mount Hebron has begun. There are also plans to upgrade the school's auditorium, provide additional storage and paint the building in the summer, Brown said.

Other upgrades

Also under next year's capital budget, $300,000 goes to reconfigure classrooms at the Applications and Research Lab, and $300,000 for renovation plans at the building that houses Cedar Lane School in Columbia. That school, for severely disabled students ages 3 to 21, is scheduled to move next fall to a new location near Lime Kiln Middle School in Fulton.

The school board agreed with Cousin's recommendation to cut plans for a new northern elementary school because revised enrollment projections no longer support the need.

Instead, the new northeastern elementary school would relieve crowding in both regions of the county when it opens in 2007. Cousin told the board that he is continuing talks with the Howard County YMCA in Ellicott City to obtain land off Montgomery Road for the school.

The school system's budget will be forwarded to the state Interagency Committee for School Construction, which weighs funding requests from Maryland's 24 districts.

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