Funding OK'd for school project

State to give $1.3 million more for Carrolltowne kindergarten

Allocation made from contingency fund

Money to help ready Sykesville site for all-day classes by 2007

July 10, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

In a late addition to school construction budgets, state officials have said they will provide $1.3 million toward a Carroll County kindergarten building project in the coming year.

The extra money -- which brings Carroll's total state allocation to $7.4 million -- is earmarked for classroom construction at Carrolltowne Elementary and will help school officials prepare the Sykesville school for all-day kindergarten by fall 2007.

Carrolltowne had been on a list of schools where local school officials had hoped to construct additional classrooms this year to accommodate full-day kindergarten. But the school was dropped from the projects when state money wasn't allocated in earlier rounds of funding.

The additional state funding has been tapped from a statewide contingency fund, said David Lever, executive director of the Maryland Public School Construction Program.

"The kindergarten issue is a state mandate and we've always felt [Carrolltowne] was a priority" because it was the last of the kindergarten projects that hadn't received state funding in earlier rounds of local requests, Lever said in an interview Friday.

Although local school officials had been hearing rumblings about the prospect of additional state funding for school construction projects, last week's announcement was a pleasant surprise.

"There was discussion that there would be additional construction money, but no one expected it would [take] this long," said Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration.

"It came from out of the blue. ... [But] we're certainly happy that the state-mandated full-day kindergarten was supported," Guthrie said.

Armed with the promise of state funds for the Carrolltowne classroom additions, school officials are consulting with the county to secure the local funding.

Guthrie said the county's budget for building projects -- approved in late May -- did not include funds for Carrolltowne because school officials had dropped it from their request when the state initially said it could not fund the project this year. About $1.3 million in local funding must be made available if the county is to accept the state's most recent offer. The county has often transferred money from other, longer-term projects in the capital budget.

`Finding a way'

"Clearly we're interested in finding a way to make this work to take advantage of the state funding," said Ted Zaleski, the county's budget director.

He said he hoped to make a recommendation to the county commissioners within a week on how to fund the Carrolltowne project.

State education officials have required all-day kindergarten by the 2007-2008 school year as part of the $1.3 billion Thornton Commission education reforms -- also known as the Bridge to Excellence Act.

Phased-in changes

Carroll County is implementing its full-day kindergarten program in three phases.

All-day kindergarten is being introduced first at schools that do not require the construction of additional classrooms. It will be offered this fall at Charles Carroll, Cranberry Station, Elmer A. Wolfe, Parr's Ridge, Robert Moton, Taneytown, William Winchester and Winfield elementaries.

For the 2006-2007 school year, all-day kindergarten will be added at Spring Garden, Piney Ridge, Westminster, Linton Springs, Eldersburg and Friendship Valley elementaries.

By 2007-2008, Hampstead, Manchester, Mechanicsville, Runnymede, Freedom District, Sandymount and Carrolltowne elementaries will have it.

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