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Howard County school board approves revised Talbott Springs Elementary replacement plan

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

The Howard County school system announced a revised replacement design for Talbott Springs Elementary School, including a 613-seat building that would move students from a neighboring elementary school.

The county school board Tuesday night unanimously approved for the school system to submit the revised plans to the state, despite state school planners not committing to funding and remaining consistent in challenging the need for a replacement building for the 45-year-old school.

Slated to open in September 2022, the replacement building would have a projected enrollment of 587 students from both Talbott Springs and Stevens Forest elementary schools in its first year, according to Scott Washington, director of capital planning and construction for the school system.

Talbott Springs’ building capacity is 377 students, however, 10 portable classrooms — the first two placed in 2004 — on the school site boosted the pre-K to fifth-grade population in the 2017-2018 school year to 491 students, according to the school’s profile.

The state Interagency Commission on School Construction has said “the most cost-effective solution” is to renovate the Columbia school rather than construct a $41.6 million replacement building. Formerly known as the Interagency Committee on School Construction, the commission reviews and approves school construction spending. No cost estimate for a renovation has been given at this time.

In May, the then five-member commission rejected the school’s system appeal for a share of state funds.

The school board directed the school system in May to redesign and re-evaluate the renovation and replacement options in an effort to address the state’s concerns “as a decision could be reconsidered before state funding is designated,” Washington said.

The commission challenged the original proposal, a 620-seat school from kindergarten to fifth grade, asking for clarification to “the apparent discrepancy” between enrollment projections and the intended new building.

The state requested additional information about a proposed foreign-language immersion program to be based at the school and the “unusual” school boundaries.

Talbott Springs parents, teachers and staff are in favor of a replacement building and have sent letters of support of the school system’s plan to the state, according to documents from the commission’s May 31 meeting agenda.

The school system plans to send the revised design study to the state within the month.

In the capital budget proposal released in September, county schools Superintendent Michael Martirano announced he is asking for nearly $33 million in funding over three years for a replacement school.

The proposed funding for the replacement includes $9.5 million to further plan and begin construction in October 2020, $14.2 million in 2021 and $9.8 million in 2022.

The replacement project has already received $8.1 million in funding. That amount included County Executive Allan Kittleman allocating $2.6 million in his current capital budget “to start renovation-addition work.” The remaining monies have come from the school system, after moving leftover funds from other completed construction projects, including the recently opened Hanover Hills Elementary School, to the project’s budget.

The county is remaining “hopeful that the state will come along to approve the school system’s appeal to grant the funding,” Paul Milton, a spokesman for the county executive, said last month.

The state is maintaining its stance on supporting a renovation or addition of Talbott Springs, a spokesman from the state’s Department of Education said in September.

Talbott Springs has had two additions and one renovation in the past 18 years — in 2000, 2008 and 2013 respectively, according to Washington. The replacement design can accommodate a future addition, if one is needed.

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