A key reason why county officials opted for the combo approach was finances. To speed up the process, the county forwards funded construction, using its own funds instead of waiting for the state to commit to a share of the cost. After the school opened, the county sought and eventually received some reimbursement from the state.

Patterson Mill Middle has a capacity of 733 students and an enrollment of 685, according to HCPS. The high school has a capacity of 1,030 students and an enrollment of 922.

Youth's Benefit update

In recent weeks, the State Interagency on School Construction and Maryland Board of Public Works committed at least $5.6 million toward the Youth's Benefit replacement project, contingent on final state budget approval this winter.

School officials estimate the total project cost will be in the $45 million range, including furnishings. The county has appropriated $15 million for the project, but has not yet borrowed any money for its share.

Licata said last week the design for the 149,000-square-foot school "is in the final stages of completion" and is being revised "based on new standards and codes."

The project is still expected to go to bid this summer, Licata said.

A community input meeting for the Youth's Benefit site plan was held at the school on Feb. 24. The meeting had been originally scheduled for Feb. 3 but was postponed because of snow and ice that evening.

According to information school officials supplied at the meeting, the three-phase project, in which the new school will be constructed on two levels around and over the two existing buildings on the site, is expected to be completed by the fall of 2017.

The completed replacement school will have a capacity for 1,130 students, considerably larger than the current capacity for 890 students. Enrollment at Youth's Benefit is 962 students, according to HCPS.

The site plan for the new school requires considerable space for stormwater management. According to minutes from the community input meeting, concerns were expressed about having adequate parking. There are 190 parking spaces planned, 30 more than what exist on the site now.

School officials said it would not be feasible to construct additional parking "for occasional peak use," according to the minutes. They were also asked about provisions for future expansion of the building and answered that the size of the gym, cafeteria and auditorium are based on state educational specifications.

Questions were also raised about the loss of play fields. On the new site plan, the existing baseball diamond on the front of the site will be eliminated. School officials said they are trying to make arrangements with the county to build a new diamond on the adjacent Fallston Recreation Complex.

The site plan for the new Youth's Benefit school will next be reviewed by the county Development Advisory Committee on Wednesday, April 2, at 9 a.m. in the second floor conference room of the county office building, 220 S. Main St. in Bel Air. The meeting is open to the public.