School board hears options for additional classrooms

More space is needed for all-day kindergarten

Anne Arundel

February 03, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Constructing permanent school additions instead of portable classrooms to meet space needs caused by the phase-in of all-day kindergarten by 2007 could cost more than $80 million, Anne Arundel County school officials said at a meeting yesterday.

School board members heard two alternatives to a plan, presented at a December meeting, that calls for installing more than 100 portable classrooms to accommodate the additional pupils. The structures would eventually be replaced by permanent buildings.

School officials estimated in December that 74 portable classrooms would be needed at 26 schools over the next two years, in addition to the 35 slated for the fiscal year that began July 1. The total cost would be about $11 million.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Anne Arundel edition incorrectly identified when a plan to install more than 100 portable classrooms was presented to school board members. They heard the update at a board meeting in October. The Sun regrets the error.

Board members expressed concern then that some schools have many portable classrooms and that adding more would create "shantytowns" to educate children. They directed staff to investigate how much it would cost to construct permanent additions.

Building additions at schools that require more than three portable classrooms during the two school years starting in fall 2006 and portable classrooms at the other schools could cost about $48 million. But constructing additions at schools that require more than three portable classrooms during the course of the five-year kindergarten expansion would cost nearly $81 million.

The classroom proposal is part of the school system's capital projects budget, which is scheduled for adoption this spring.

School board members also questioned representatives of two proposed charter schools about their applications, which were introduced at yesterday's meeting.

A committee of school system officials evaluated the applications for Chesapeake Science Point, a science and technology program for middle and high school students, and KIPP Harbor Academy, which would provide a college-preparatory education to middle school pupils in the Annapolis area.

The group recommended conditional approval of the two schools' applications because of unresolved questions about "fiscal, human and organizational resources," said Kathy D. Lane, who oversees alternative education for the school system.

Part of the concern stems from the number of services that both schools are expected to contract from the school district or its vendors, including special education, food services and transportation.

Representatives of both schools said they hope to work with the school system to get those services but have contingency plans for obtaining them.

"It is certainly within our capacity to respond to those needs on our own," said Jutta Hagner of Chesapeake Science Point.

Board member Michael J. McNelly asked representatives of both schools how many waivers from local and state board policies they sought.

Chesapeake Science Point requested 18, Lane said, including curriculum guides, and course development, instructional materials and personnel. KIPP requested no waivers.

Crofton resident Tom Frank, who attended the meeting, told the board he wasn't surprised by the numerous requests for waivers from the school system's policies.

"The idea is they should be different" from other schools in the district, he said.

School board members have until March to approve or deny the applications. Once approved, the school system and proposed schools must negotiate agreements formalizing details about items such as transportation.

In other business, board members reviewed a draft school uniform policy that would allow principals to require uniforms if parents concur. The board's student member, Sarah K. Ferguson, asked about provisions for students who can't afford uniforms.

Lewis Bracy, a member of RESPECT, a coalition of Anne Arundel's African-American organizations, supported the policy. He recommended requiring uniforms systemwide because they reduce the pressure to purchase expensive, fashionable clothing.

"But that's being greedy. I'll take what I can get," he said.

During the meeting, board member Eugene Peterson asked his colleagues to support alternative education through a supplemental budget allocation and other efforts. He said he hoped to prevent more students - particularly black males - from committing more serious offenses.

"We may not have a tomorrow for a large number of students," he said.

But McNelly noted that the request was not listed on the agenda, so the public was not aware of Peterson's intention.

"That's the proper thing to do. That's the democratic thing to do," he said.

Board members said they would address the suggestion at their Feb. 16 meeting to consider the school system's operating budget.

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