xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Planning Board 'encouraged' by Howard County schools 2019 capital budget

Members of Howard County's Planning Board said they were "encouraged" by the school system's fiscal 2019 capital budget at their meeting on Thursday night.

The board serves an advisory role on the budget, but does not have any authority on the plan itself.

Advertisement

After reviewing the plan and a presentation from school system planning manager Renee Kamen and Executive Director of Capital Planning and Budget Bruce Gist, the board said it offered no further recommendations to the plan and voted to approve it.

The proposed capital budget totals $79.9 million, and includes at least partial funding for some much-discussed projects including the construction of High School 13 and completion of Elementary School 42.

Advertisement
Advertisement

In his budget proposal, Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano wrote that the plan is meant to alleviate overcrowding in several elementary schools throughout the district, and also includes building an addition to Clarksville Elementary School, replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary School, construction of Elementary School 43 and the creation of an elementary regional language immersion schools program.

The school system's proposed capital budget is an increase of $14.4 million over last year's capital budget. It also includes plans for a $616 million capital improvement program for 2020-2024 and a $1.3 billion long-range master plan for 2019-2028.

Planning Board members, including board Chairman Phil Engelke, asked about the use of portable classrooms in the school system, and when officials choose to utilize them. Kamen said that officials consider several factors before implementing portables, including looking at the projected student population growth in a building. If the building is set to reach more than 110 percent capacity, then portables will be used to alleviate overcrowding in the short-term before deciding if expanding a school is necessary.

As of September, the system was using a total of 224 portable classrooms, according to the capital budget plan. The use of portables has been an often-cited concern of parents and students in recent months, as they complain their use is a result of severe overcrowding in schools.

Advertisement

The budget has "a number of moving pieces," Martirano said, which includes potential long-term solutions to alleviate overcrowding in the school system in tandem with redistricting. The school system projects nearly 10,000 additional students will enroll in Howard County public schools in the next decade.

Discussion of the budget comes amid a tense time for the school system as it prepares to receive the superintendent's official recommendations on Tuesday for controversial redistricting plans. Tensions have run high among parents in the county in recent weeks, with "personal attacks" made on social media against members of the schools' Attendance Area Committee, school officials have said.

Martirano also recently unveiled his idea to expedite the completion of High School 13 to open as early as 2022 in order to delay high school redistricting. County Executive Kittleman is set to go to Annapolis on Oct. 18 to advocate for funding for the $124.1 million project.

The board noted the challenges the school system faces in planning for so much student population growth in the future. Board member Tudy Adler said she could see where some areas have had "growing pains" in recent years as families have moved around and into the county.

Despite the challenges board members noted the schools face in handling the student overflow, members, such as Adler, said officials were "doing the best they can" to manage the population. Board member Ed Coleman said he did not want to "micromanage" the work of the school system.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement