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Howard’s 44th elementary school will be in western Ellicott City, County Executive Calvin Ball says

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Tuesday, along with Board of Education members and local and state officials, announced the site of the county’s 44th elementary school.

The 10-acre site in Western Ellicott City near Resort Road, which will become Turf Valley Elementary School, will be one of four school projects currently in the works; others include renovations at Hammond High School in Columbia, a replacement Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia and the construction of the county’s 13th high school in Jessup.

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No timeline was immediately available for the start of the Turf Valley construction. The Talbott Spring replacement is set to be completed late next year, while the Hammond renovations and the 13th high school construction are slated to be done in 2023.

“The need for additional school capacity has been a pressing issue in Howard County for years,” Ball said Tuesday. “Over half of our 42 elementary schools are projected to exceed 100% capacity utilization in the upcoming 2021-22 school year and have been for quite some time.”

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The projects come at a time when enrollment in county public schools continue to outgrow its capacity, according to the Howard County Public School System’s recent feasibility study.

The study, which was presented at a school board meeting last month, illustrated five changes from the previous year’s study, including 233 additional seats needed at Dunloggin Middle School in 2024; 600 seats including regional program seats at the county’s new 43rd elementary school in the Jessup area in 2025; an additional 195 seats at Thomas Viaduct Middle School in 2025; an additional 298 seats at Worthington Elementary School in 2027; and regional program seats at Turf Valley Elementary in 2028.

While the need for a new elementary school in the Turf Valley area was identified in 2015, according to Ball, it wasn’t until 2016 that the school system asked the county to assess the viability of purchasing property in the area. In 2017, the county announced its intent to purchase property in the neighborhood, with the county investing $5.75 million for the acquisition which closed Friday.

All six elementary schools in the northern region of the county have been above 100% capacity utilization in six of the past eight years, Ball said.

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As a result of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a law that provides targeted funding for schools and students, the county will receive $132 million for projects like Turf Valley Elementary School, according to state Sen. Katie Fry Hester, who represents parts of Howard and Carroll counties including the site of the new school.

“We’re passing these important pieces of legislation because we understand that part of educating our kids is making sure that they have an environment that supports their learning,” Fry Hester said at the news conference Tuesday. “It’s making sure that teachers don’t have too many kids in their classroom and that making a modern, state-of-the-art school keeps our kids excited and engaged.”

In May, the school board approved a $373 million capital improvement program for fiscal years 2023 to 2027 and a $926 million long-range master plan for 2022 to 2031. The plans include the construction of the two new elementary schools; renovations of Dunloggin Middle, Oakland Mills Middle and Centennial High; and construction of a 14th high school which could be in Elkridge.

“When we think about the amount of growth we’re very proud of our prosperous community, but we’re also very challenged by our growth that we need to keep up with our adequate public facilities which a major part of that are our schools,” schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said Tuesday.

“After many years of discussions and debate and conversations that we now have a forward-thinking place for a future school and a great community that is forward thinking that collaborates, identifies the problems and thinks of long-term solutions is the very best we can expect.”

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