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School foes plan appeal to state board


Dogged but pessimistic, a residents group will try again Tuesday to get the planned western high school shifted to another site.

The Trotter Road Citizens Association has lost recent appeals before the county planning board and an administrative law judge who heard the case for the state Board of Education. The association now plans to take its appeal directly to the state board.

"We're not optimistic that we'll turn anything around, but there's a sick situation in Maryland where there are intense local rights and there's no review," said Aelred Geis, a leader of the battle.

The state board lacks legal authority to reverse the county school board's decision to place the school on a 50-acre site between Trotter Road and Route 108. But if the state board determines that the county board acted unreasonably, illegally or arbitrarily, it can order the local board to go through the site selection process again.

"I'm pretty well resigned to the fact that the school is going to be there, illogical as it may seem," Geis said. He said that by continuing the fight, the association may be able to reduce the chances of "future illogical actions" on school sites.

Trotter Road residents will try to convince the state board that the school should be farther west, that the building will not fit on the existing site, and that a high school is incompatible with the adjacent Clarksville Elementary School and Columbia Memorial Park.

The county planning board approved the western high school site last week over neighbors' objections. Board vice chairwoman Kay B. Partridge said the board had a limited scope of review and had to base its decision on the site's conformity to Columbia's master plan. The school will lie in Columbia's 10th and final village, River Hill.

Earlier this month, Administrative Law Judge Charles W. Fowler recommended that the state school board not review the local board's decision.

The state board will give the association and attorneys for the board 15 minutes each to argue whether the decision should be reviewed.

State board members could issue a decision Wednesday, the day after the arguments. Valerie V. Cloutier, assistant attorney general assigned to the state Board of Education, said the board will try to give a quick decision because of time constraints.

The school is scheduled to open in September 1994, and county officials want to start construction this summer.

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