Parents press for new high school in Carroll

March 14, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

A large and angry crowd of parents and officials from Hampstead and Manchester pushed last night for building a new high school after learning that funding for the $70 million project in northeastern Carroll County had been slashed from the county's proposed six-year capital spending plan.

Residents have been pressuring Board of Education members for a new school to relieve overcrowding at North Carroll High School, but they learned yesterday that Ted Zaleski, the county budget director, recommended dropping the project.

The Carroll commissioners have asked the state legislature this year for $25 million in bonding authority for the northeast-area high school. The commissioners' overall $80 million bond request bill is scheduled for its first hearing Tuesday, according to state Sen. Larry E. Haines, head of Carroll's delegation in Annapolis.

"Of course the families want a new high school out there," Haines said. "We're going ahead with this bond bill."

The town councils in Hampstead and Manchester had already planned the meeting for last night, held at North Carroll High, because of concerns about its overcrowding. North Carroll, which has portable classrooms in the front and back of the main building, has an enrollment of about 1,700 - some 350 students over capacity, county school officials said last night.

Although North Carroll is predicted to be at 128.5 percent of capacity next school year, the school board has projected that enrollment will decline in coming years. The board's new projections have the school returning to enrollment at capacity by 2016.

"What are we going to do between now and 2016," asked Manchester Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario, who also expressed concern at wasting the $1.7 million that has been spent on plans for the school, which had been envisioned to open in August 2009.

Donna Oursler of Manchester, who has two children enrolled at a Catholic high school in Towson but hopes her younger two will attend the new public school, said, "It certainly has left me no recourse. I feel pressed into a corner."

At a meeting yesterday morning, Zaleski and the commissioners said that up to 5,000 residential building lots are in the pipeline in Hampstead and Manchester - but unless the municipalities extend their water services to the mostly unincorporated areas proposed for building, growth will come slowly, the budget director said.

"We could be looking at years, even decades, even if all 5,000 of those are eventually built," Zaleski said. "I took [the high school] out based on the relative urgency of the need."

Most of the school construction projects in the proposed six-year plan are in the populous South Carroll area. A long-desired fine-arts auditorium addition at South Carroll High, a new middle and elementary schools in South Carroll and an addition to accommodate all-day kindergarten at Freedom Elementary are included in the plan.laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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