Stoneleigh Elementary addition is fifth-highest priority for School Board

A proposed renovation and addition to Stoneleigh Elementary School received a boost Thursday, Aug. 4, when the Baltimore County Public School system listed the project fifth on a list of capital budget priorities for the coming year.

The report, which contains Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's proposed state capital budget recommendations and was to be formally released at a meeting Aug. 9, pushed Stoneleigh into the top-five after the project checked in at No. 23 last year.

Juliet Fisher, mother of two Stoneleigh Elementary students and member of Stoneleigh United, an advocacy group that supports the addition and renovation, said the group was "extremely pleased" with the development, especially given their position on last year's list.

"We've mobilized since last fall, and to move to fifth on the list and be the first newly-funded project that the school board is trying to move forward is extremely pleasing," Fisher said. "We felt very frustrated that we weren't included last year, but we're glad the board is recognizing this is a priority."

The four schools listed ahead of Stoneleigh Elementaryt — Dundalk, Parkville, Seven Oaks and Sollers Point high schools and Milford Mill Academy, have all previously received state funds for their projects.

A timeline of recommendations for capital planning priorities released with the list suggests that the Stoneleigh addition could be funded in fiscal 2012-13, which will begin July 1. But given the county's tight financial situation, Fisher realizes the list is just one step in the process.

"We understand with budgetary constraints that nothing is guaranteed," Fisher said. "We're hoping the state and county can come up with the funds for construction."

Until construction occurs, more temporary solutions are being used to accommodate the overcrowded school, with six classroom trailers scheduled to be used for the 2011-12 school year. Fisher said that the most recent figures had 658 students enrolled for the coming year, nearly 32-percent higher than its capacity of 499.

"We're bursting out of that building," Fisher said.

In a statement, County Councilman David Marks, who represents the Towson area, said it is "very important that the addition of Stoneleigh moves forward."

"The overcrowding at Stoneleigh Elementary School is driven by demographic changes, as older residents sell their homes to younger families, many from Baltimore City," Marks said. "I thank the school system for making this a priority."

Its high position on the priority list is the second positive step for the proposed addition in less than a month. At a July 12 meeting, the school board approved a $1 million contract with Rubeling & Associates Inc. that charges the Towson-based architectural firm with "preparing schematic design, design development phase, and construction document phase," according to board materials. The company will also assist with the bidding on the "construction administrative phase services; preparing estimates; and making state submissions."

Jay R. Thompson contributed reporting on this story.

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