Board OKs Mays Chapel elementary school

The Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday evening to build an elementary school in Mays Chapel despite angry opposition from neighbors.

The 700-seat school is estimated to cost $20 million to $24 million and is expected to open within two to three years to relieve overcrowding in the York Road corridor. School system administrators believe that they will need about 1,000 new seats for elementary school students within the next several years.

The board vote came after a contentious debate 24 hours earlier at a hearing where neighbors accused the school system of rushing to make a decision without considering other sites or other solutions for the overcrowding that has plagued the area for the past five years.

They suggested the school system consider other parks and a school system site in Dulaney Springs, at the corner of Old Bosley and Pot Spring roads. The county school system claims it would cost more to build at that site, but opponents disagree.

School board members on Tuesday night said they believed the Mays Chapel site was the best option. Board President Lawrence Schmidt said that given the budget constraints of the county, it would not be reasonable to purchase another property. Mays Chapel "is a school site that is being used as a park, not a park that is being turned into a school." Opponents said after the vote that they would consider their options.

The placement of the school has pitted young families, who are desperate for more space in their schools in Lutherville and Timonium, against older people who have retired to Mays Chapel and want to retain their neighborhood's 20-acre park.

According to one estimate, about 3,000 people live in the nearby residential developments, which include condominiums, townhouses, apartments and assisted-living units. About half of the park, which was set aside 26 years ago for a school, would be used to build the school.

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