Kamenetz agrees to fund Stoneleigh addition design

Parents want to avoid older students' shift to middle schools

March 11, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

After meeting for nearly two hours Friday with parents from Stoneleigh Elementary School, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz agreed to fund $2 million in architectural designs for upgrades to the 81-year-old school building.

Securing the design money is a major goal for the parents, many of whom were concerned by Kamenetz's recent comments that school officials should consider moving students from overcrowded elementary schools to under-enrolled middle schools as an alternative to new construction.

"The county has also pledged to work on a long-term solution to overcrowding at Stoneleigh," said Juliet Fisher, whose two children attend the school along the York Road corridor.

Kamenetz said he will include the funding in the 2012 budget.

"At the same time, I am asking all stakeholders to work together to come up with a solution to address overcrowding within the context of budgetary constraints," he said.

Kamenetz has called for a study into shifting fourth- and fifth-graders to under-enrolled middle schools as a way to expand capacity in the Towson area, where several elementaries are surrounded by portable classrooms. He set a July 1 timetable for recommendations.

"We have a lot of vacant space in middle-school buildings," he said. "I am asking education experts to come up with uses for that space."

Fisher and other Stoneleigh parents called the proposal a short-term fix at best. They would prefer to keep their children at the elementary, which is about 130 students over capacity, rather than bus them to Dumbarton Middle School.

Enrollment projections put Dumbarton at capacity within the next few years, officials said.

"It's not optimal with trailers, but we want to keep our school community intact," said Laura Lechtzin, who also met with Kamenetz. "There has not been enough research on the effects of putting younger children in a middle-school environment."

Stoneleigh needs extensive remodeling and more space. Proposed improvements, estimated to cost about $20 million, would add about 300 seats to what is one of the county's oldest elementaries.

"We need to bring this school into the 21st century," Fisher said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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