S. Carroll High parents, teachers say position on list is not fair

Construction projects have been neglected for many years, they say

October 01, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

Parents say list not fair Armed with a decade's worth of school system planning documents that show many other construction projects have been prioritized - and in many cases completed - ahead of a South Carroll High modernization and fine arts addition, parents say they are growing increasingly frustrated and feeling neglected.

"Where is the fairness to our children?" Beth Dunlap, parent and an art teacher at the school in Winfield, asked schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker during a meeting with dozens of parents last week.

Parents asked why South Carroll's projects have languished for more than 10 years, while many other projects - such as the construction of Century High School in Sykesville - have been completed.

The parents said that while they were grateful that the opening of Century High in 2001 had alleviated the crowded conditions at South Carroll, they feel the school system has abandoned them to focus on other schools that are overcrowded.

The South Carroll modernization and fine arts addition projects have been relegated to the back burner, they said.

The problem, parents said, is when school officials build a new school, but don't return to renovate the school that was overcrowded.

"It's a Catch-22," said parent Katy Shields.

Laura K. Rhodes, a former school board member, said she had collected 10 years worth of school system planning documents that demonstrated parents' contentions that South Carroll projects have been neglected.

Since 1996, she said, every project - with the exception of a new Westminster-area middle school - that was listed in higher priority to the South Carroll fine arts addition has been completed.

Those completed projects include:

construction of Oklahoma Road Middle in Sykesville;

the addition of an exercise area and library at West Middle in Westminster;

renovation at Elmer Wolfe Elementary in Union Bridge;

construction of Linton Springs Elementary in Sykesville;

construction of Cranberry Station Elementary in Westminster;

renovation at Francis Scott Key High in Union Bridge;

construction of Winters Mill High in Westminster;

construction of Shiloh Middle in Hampstead;

addition at Spring Garden Elementary in Hampstead;

closing Old New Windsor Middle;

Sykesville Middle's media center addition;

modernization at North Carroll Middle in Hampstead.

Rhodes pointed to other projects that had been added - and completed - since 1996, including construction of Gateway School in Westminster, Parr's Ridge Elementary in Mount Airy, Century High in Sykesville and several kindergarten classroom additions.

"I just want them to say that they recognize a need in South Carroll and make a commitment to working to solve things down here," Rhodes said.

Parents - who blamed school officials for not assigning a higher priority to the South Carroll projects - said that South Carroll's educational facilities lag behind those of newer schools such as Century High and Winters Mill High in Westminster.

But Ecker and facilities director Raymond Prokop said regardless of where they place the projects, there is no guarantee they'll receive funding for them.

Ecker said he believed the state was going to fund South Carroll's fine arts addition last year, but it didn't. In addition, when the county commissioners approve the school system's funding, they approve certain projects.

"I wish they would give the school system the money and let us do with it what we want, but they don't," Ecker said.

Recently, however, school officials moved the South Carroll fine arts addition up on the list of construction projects in part because of parents' complaints.

The fine arts addition - which would include a new auditorium - had been ranked No. 6 on the list of building projects, behind such projects as a new northeast area high school. The fine arts addition is slated to be completed by August 2010. Meanwhile, the South Carroll modernization is projected to be completed in 2015, Ecker said.

The most recent building plan, which school board members approved last week, listed the fine arts addition third, behind Freedom Elementary kindergarten classroom construction and the northeast area high school.

Ecker told parents that an outside consultant is conducting a facilities assessment of the entire school system, which is expected to be finished by the end of this year.

"It will give us an objective way to look at schools and projects," Ecker said.


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