Legislators, council members want Hampton Elementary addition to be a priority

They send letter to Hairston addressing crowding issue at Towson area school

December 21, 2010|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

A group of Baltimore County Council members and state legislators has asked school Superintendent Joe A. Hairston to make an addition to Hampton Elementary his priority for school construction dollars in next year's budget.

The request in a letter sent Tuesday comes two weeks after two dozen parents and staff made the same request at a school board meeting.

"The addition would alleviate the severe overcrowding that threatens the learning environment at Hampton Elementary School, which is one of the finest schools in Baltimore County," the legislators and council members said in the letter.

The letter was signed by state Sen. James Brochin, Del. Susan L.M. Aumann, Del. William Frank, Del. Stephen W. Lafferty, County Councilman Todd Huff and County Councilman David Marks.

Marks said the letter was sent this week because the school board was meeting Tuesday night. During the meeting, school board members said the discussions are continuing with the county about a Hampton addition and encouraged parents to continue lobbying the County Council.

Renovations are expected to cost about $19 million.

"I think the overcrowding has reached a crisis condition at the school. We are responding to a lot of the stories we are hearing from parents," Marks said.

The letter also asks that the renovations and new addition address the need to expand the core areas of the building, such as the library and cafeteria.

Hampton's enrollment is about 200 students over capacity and the school now has eight trailers housing two grades. Enrollment projections are expected to show an increase of 50 students next fall, according to the Hampton parents.

"I think it is common sense that our elected officials would want the needs of the community met, and Hampton Elementary is the most overcrowded school and it should be top priority for the county executive's budget in terms of school construction," said Yara Cheikh, a Hampton parent.

Marks said he is concerned that the county school system has not done enough long-term planning.

"We should be doing a much better job of budgeting and planning for new schools. … We don't seem to be buying land and banking it for the future," he said.

The letter is "a good start. It is good that the council and the delegation understand the problem at Hampton," said Cathi Forbes, who is head of Towson Parents United, a coalition aimed at reducing overcrowding in the Towson area schools.

Hairston said two weeks ago that the Hampton addition is near the top of the list, but that other projects are ahead of it.

The county is currently building a new school for the Carver Center for the Arts and Dundalk and Sollers Point high schools. A new addition at Milford Mill Academy is also under way.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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