Jessup property picked for next Howard County high school

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Property near Mission Road in Jessup has been selected as the location for a new, 1,600-student high school.

In a narrow 4-3 vote, the Howard County school board last week capped an often tense site selection process and left some parents in the Elkridge area “heartbroken” by not deciding to build the school at Troy Park near their homes.

The county will begin the process to buy the 77-acre property near a Jessup quarry from Gould Property Co., the general partner of Chase Land and Annapolis Junction Holdings, and will then transfer a portion of the land to the school system, according to school spokesman Brian Bassett.

Construction is scheduled to begin in December 2019 with an opening by September 2023.

The $124 million project is designed to relieve overcrowding in eastern county schools, including Howard and Long Reach high schools. Student capacity at Howard High School is set to reach 145 percent by 2022 and capacity at Long Reach is projected to reach 140 percent, according to the school system’s estimates.

Board members have been debating since January whether to build the school on Mission Road or at Troy Park. The issue divided many residents. Supporters wearing Elkridge or Mission Road T-shirts have regularly attended school board meetings and have been active on social media presenting opinions on the sites.

“We’re feeling basically heartbroken. We feel like the Elkridge community has been ignored for years and this is just one more example of that,” said Dawn Popp, an Elkridge resident.

The school board voted to “land bank” the Troy Park property as a potential future school site.

Popp called the move an “empty promise” until she sees more meaningful actions.

“To us this would have been the heart of our community,” said Elkridge resident Becki Vivrette.

Proponents of the Troy Park site said the Elkridge location was preferable because it would serve a more overcrowded area; Elkridge’s population is projected to increase by 40 percent between 2000 and 2030, reaching 38,000, according to county data.

“I would rather build in the right place where the kids are, and I would rather wait a couple more years than feel pressured to build right now,” said board member Ananta Hejeebu.

“In my mind the only place viable at this time is Mission Road,” said board member Sandra French. “For now we need to act, we need to work for these students who need a high school.”

French, Kirsten Coombs, Bess Altwerger and Mavis Ellis voted for the Mission Road site.

High school enrollment countywide is projected to increase by nearly 2,800 students by 2026, according to a 2017 feasibility study.

“Neither site is perfect and this site has been tested, it’s ready to roll,” said Jessup resident Mission Road site advocate Becky McKirahan. “We can open it up and we can relieve the overcrowding. I wish for the Elkridge people that a site like this exists up there, but it doesn’t. We can’t wait until 2026.”

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