School board OKs plans for additions at 6 sites

Space needed if all-day kindergarten starts in '07

October 28, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Carroll County school board members are hoping to gain flexibility in meeting the state's all-day kindergarten mandate by 2007, but pragmatism prompted them yesterday to approve plans to spend nearly $12 million to build additions to six elementary schools to accommodate the additional kindergartners.

Ten schools will require additions to provide enough classroom space for systemwide full-day kindergarten, said Al Eilbacher, the system's construction supervisor. The six included in yesterday's plans are Carrolltowne, Eldersburg, Linton Springs, Piney Ridge, Spring Garden and Westminster elementary schools.

The vote was to approve design development documents, which offer a preliminary idea of where the additions will be built at the schools and the basic floor plans. Those plans will be forwarded to the state's Public School Construction Program for review and comments, Eilbacher said. "This is an intermediate step," he said. "There may be minor changes by the time we're finished."

After the state has finished its review of the design development documents, Eilbacher's office will draw up construction plans. He said those plans will undergo a similar process before construction bids are solicited.

He said the target is to solicit bids in June, so that construction can begin in July when funding would become available.

The district is proceeding with plans to accommodate full-day kindergarten because officials do not know whether they will prevail in their efforts to forestall the state mandate.

Carroll school officials have been fighting the kindergarten requirement - part of the $1.3 billion Thornton Commission education reforms - for nearly two years. The State Department of Education has ordered that all public school systems provide all-day kindergarten by 2007. In Carroll, that policy is expected to cost about $18 million.

"We have to proceed [with planning] ... because it takes approximately a year to do construction," Eilbacher said. He said if school officials wait another year before doing any planning, they could find themselves trying to build additions at 10 schools at the same time.

If legislators decide to grant local jurisdictions full control over implementing full-day kindergarten, the school board will have the option of scaling back construction plans, Eilbacher said.

"We may still need to do some construction, but maybe only half" as much, he said.

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