Board Oks science lab fix

In-demand IB program could move to Meade HS to ease crowding

Plans for 8-class addition held

Old Mill High bursting with magnet students

July 08, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Old Mill High School in Millersville is bursting at the seams because of increasing enrollment in magnet programs, school district officials say, sothey're looking to Meade HighSchool as a future home for the International Baccalaureate program or other courses.

However, some school board members this week questioned the tentative plans, which emerged through a review of design documents for a science lab renovation and eight-classroom addition for Meade. They said they wanted to wait for results of a facilities study before making any commitments.

"I just want to make sure we don't put the cart before the horse," school board Vice President Tricia Johnson of Davidsonville said yesterday. "We need to know what we need the space for before we spend the planning money to design the space."

Board President Konrad M. Wayson of Edgewater said, "My question is: What are we building?"

All f ive board members present at Wednesday's meeting voted to approve the design of the science lab, but the board will consider the need for the addition at a future meeting.

Superintendent Eric J. Smith said during the meeting that Old Mill cannot continue to accommodate the growth of its population due to the rise in interest in the rigorous International Baccalaureate program. The program offers accelerated classes and college credit for some students.

"We are under extreme pressure with IB enrollment," he said.

Other variables also could affect enrollment. For example, it's unclear whether recent announcements about the realignment of military bases around the country will result in an influx of families to Fort Meade - and surging enrollments at surrounding schools as well.

Old Mill is Anne Arundel's largest high school. Last year, 2,606 students attended the school, and about 2,650 are expected this fall, although under state formulas it has room for only 2,376. More than 100 studentswere enrolled in the IB program at Old Mill during the last school year, the second year it was offered; 159 are expected this fall as the program adds its first junior class.

School system officials during the recent budget process committed to admitting all of those students. The school is adding five portable classrooms to join two already in use.

Most of the students attending Old Mill from outside its attendance area come from Meade, said Chuck Yocum, the school system's supervisor of student demographic planning.

"Since we're a magnet school, we're drawing students from the northern part of the county," said Jason T. Williams, an assistant principal at Old Mill.

It's no secret in the Old Mill community that the school's enrollment is sizable. "We are aware that we have a large student body," said Old Mill PTSA President Susan Reiner.

By comparison, Meade High School last year had 1,772 students in a building the state says can fit 2,208. However, Meade Principal Joan Valentine said the school originally was designed with an open format.

Walls built later reduced the amount of usable space.

She said at the meeting that the school needed the science lab renovations. "We're way behind where we need to be in order for me to meet academic challenges," Valentine said.

However, she expects increased enrollment for several programs, including Army ROTC. Meade is the only county high school that offers this program, Valentine said.

But board members said that the strategic facilities utilization master plan, requested in December and expected next spring, should be able to predict needs.

At the Wednesday meeting, board members reviewed a designfor the $5.75 million renovation to Meade's science labs, which would be completed by the fall of 2007. The board also examined plans for a $3.1 million, eight-classroom addition, but that would also require renovation of the cafeteria to feed the extra students.

Superintendent Smith said that planning the addition at the same time as the science lab was "financially prudent" because the school board would have the documents ready should they decide to move forward with the expansion.

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