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Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard superintendent’s long-range budget no longer includes funds for 14th high school in Elkridge

Howard County Public School System Superintendent Michael Martirano presented his proposed capital budget for fiscal 2024 and Long-Range Master Plan last week, laying out priorities for construction projects and building maintenance. Missing from the proposal were any plans for the construction of the county’s 14th public high school.

The sidelining of a major project that had been part of the school system’s 2023-2032 long-range plan sets Martirano in conflict with County Executive Calvin Ball and other advocates for the 14th high school, planned for Elkridge.

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In October 2020, as part of an effort to address overcrowding in county public schools, Ball announced a 14th high school should be built at Troy Park and the Board of Education voted to include the project as part of its long-range master plan.

Along with the removal of the Elkridge high school from the Capital Improvement Program and long-term planning, Martirano also dropped renovations at Oakland Mills High School that had been planned for 2030. Renovation and addition plans at Centennial High School also were moved from 2031 to 2033.

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On Sept. 8, at the county school board meeting, Martirano said that all county public high schools would remain below 110% capacity for the next 10 years, thanks to the opening next fall of the 13th high school in Jessup and related redistricting.

Because of this, and due to a planned addition at Hammond High School, Martirano argued that the school system would be unable to show a need for a 14th high school to unlock state funding, leaving a new high school in Elkridge reliant on a “significant funding increase from the county.”

“I do not recommend including high school 14 in our Capital Improvement Program at this time, as it will create expectations in the community that would likely be unfulfilled within the next 10 years,” Martirano said. “We have seen this happen many times with other projects that were added to the 10-year plan and continued to see delay after delay due to funding issues, to our community’s dismay.”

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State funding for school system capital projects is based on demonstrated need. The school system uses a variety of factors, including new housing developments, birth statistics and student advancement rates from one grade to the next to demonstrate its needs.

“Where we start to have difficulty is if we don’t show a need for a project period, the state is going to question that project,” said Daniel Lubeley, the school system’s director of capital planning and construction. “That starts to question whether or not, even in the future, they would provide any kind of funding toward that project.”

Along with completing construction of the 13th high school in Jessup, highlights from Martirano’s proposed $76 million capital budget include renovations and additions at Oakland Mills Middle School, Dunloggin Middle School, Faulkner Ridge Center and construction of the county’s 43rd elementary school, on Mission Road in Jessup.

Ball expressed his displeasure with the decision to pull plans for a new high school in Elkridge and push back work at Oakland Mills.

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“While we are encouraged by the progress that has been made on school overcrowding over the last four years, we are concerned by some components of the Superintendent’s proposal, particularly the decisions to remove High School #14 from his proposed long-range master plan entirely and to delay the beginning of funding for the Oakland Mills High School Renovation and Addition from FY26 to FY33,” Ball wrote in an email. “These proposed changes conflict with the prioritization previously established by the Board of Education.

“Let us continue momentum for school projects that our communities need and have been requesting.”

Lubeley says no single new project bumped high school 14 from the Long-Range Master Plan, but rather it was a “confluence of multiple different factors” affecting capacity needs, including the completion of high school 13, the addition at Hammond High School and the ongoing redistricting process.

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The next step in the capital budget process is a public hearing, work session and initial Board of Education vote, all scheduled for the Sept. 22 board meeting.

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At the conclusion of the meeting Sept. 8, school board Chair Vicky Cutroneo discussed deferred maintenance and renovations to county schools.

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“To the community, it’s not that we don’t want to do these projects. If we had the money, we would be doing these projects. We’re not choosing to not do them, we just have a limited amount of funding,” Cutroneo said.

“We have to make these very, very difficult choices. No board member wants to say ‘no.’ We all recognize that it doesn’t matter who you are, what your socioeconomic status is – you are advocating for your school community. You’ve been waiting for decades, and it’s ridiculous.”


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