School plan approved

Despite protests, Severna Park to get $46 million makeover

December 22, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has approved a $46 million makeover for Severna Park Middle School, over the protests of some parents who pressed for improvements that are more expensive.

The renovation plan adopted by the board Wednesday calls for replacing mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems and adding 31,000 square feet of space over 27 months.

The changes include a new cafeteria and kitchen and expanding the administrative office suite, media center and teacher planning areas.

Classroom sizes would range from 780 to 815 square feet -- smaller than the other two options the board previously rejected.

It was the cheapest of the three options initially on the table, and the one recommended by Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell.

Beyond this plan for moderate renovations to the 39-year-old school, the board also considered spending $56 million for more extensive renovations and $58 million to replace the school.

At a hearing last month, which included five hours of debate, Severna Park parents wearing yellow armbands in a show of solidarity asked the board for the $56 million option.

County Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale had called the superintendent's recommendation a "$46 million Band-Aid."

This week, those parents, teachers and community members changed their request to the board and asked for a new school, primarily because the option preferred by Maxwell has the smallest classrooms.

Before the vote, Vitale gave a speech to the board that drew applause from supporters.

"This community as a whole is a very active, very engaged community," she told the board. "This whole process is ripping apart the community I represent."

But because board members at their meeting this month voted down the two more costly options, their hands were tied as they revisited the issue this week.

Despite maneuvering by board member Victor Bernson to put the other two options back on the table, the majority voted to consider only the superintendent's recommendation.

Board president Tricia Johnson, Vice President Eugene Peterson and members Konrad Wayson, Ned Carey and Enrique Melendez voted in favor of the overhaul. Bernson, Michael Leahy and student member Brittany Walker abstained from the vote.

Peterson told the audience that the board has a responsibility to be fiscally responsible, and that's why he supported the superintendent's recommendation.

Now, the school system will have to ask the state and the county for approval and funding for the project. In the meantime, engineering and design work will be done, and the school system will work on obtaining permits for the construction, which could take as long as a year, according to school system officials.

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