With plans in the works to construct a 13th high school by an announced 2022 deadline, County Executive Allan Kittleman made sticking to that timeline potentially more difficult late last month when he announced his opposition to a proposed site at Rockburn Branch Park.
The proposal for the Elkridge-area site had received backlash from some residents who were opposed to development on county parkland. As of Tuesday afternoon, a Change.org petition, “Save Rockburn Park,” had received 3,538 signatures.
Kittleman released a statement before Christmas announcing his decision, citing the location’s environmental factors, including forested land and stream buffers, as well as archaeological sites at the park. The executive said he was also committed to preserving the popular park, established in 1960.
A second location that has been considered for the high school is along Mission Road in Jessup. That site has drawn concerns from the community because it is next to an active quarry, which school board Chairwomen Cindy Vaillancourt said has a mining permit for another 13 to 14 years and anticipates operating between the next five and 14 years.
Council members Calvin Ball and Jon Weinstein led efforts last year to have Rockburn Branch Park evaluated as a possible site.
Ball, who is also running against Kittleman for county executive this year, said the Mission Road site does not meet the needs of the county to both alleviate overcrowding and provide a school in the Elkridge community. He said he wants the executive to find a site that can accomplish both those goals.
The county is discussing two other sites in the Elkridge area, Kittleman said, but declined to comment on their locations. He said he remains committed to finding an Elkridge location for the new school if possible.
Despite this commitment, Kittleman said his top priority is to open the new school by August 2022, even if it means choosing a location outside Elkridge.
“[Rockburn Branch Park] clearly is not a location that’s going to work, so we have to keep searching to find one that does,” Kittleman said.