The Board of Education is expected to give preliminary approval today to spending $250 million on construction of schools and renovations and additions in the next 10 years.
But before giving final approval in February, school board members said that they intend to explore money-saving alternatives, such as year-round schools and spreading costs over several years.
"We need to talk about changing doing business as usual in the school system," board member Karen B. Campbell said.
The 1994 capital budget and long-range improvement plan proposed by Superintendent Michael E. Hickey would commit $62.8 million for projects in 1994.
Ms. Campbell called for year-round schooling and more portable classrooms to help stagger the massive building program, which calls for 14 new schools to be built by 2003.
Board members also lashed out at critics who called for "no-frills" schools during a public hearing Oct. 1 on the long-range capital improvement plans.
"There aren't a lot of frills on our schools," said board member Susan J. Cook.
Board members said that the school system has built cheaper schools, such as Burleigh Manor Middle, which cost less per square foot than state projections.
They also cautioned that building cheaper schools now could mean expensive renovation in the future.
"We can't go back to building schools like we did in 1945," said chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig. "In those days, you put in the least expensive of everything."
Ms. Kendig recalled that Rockland Elementary in Ellicott City was closed in 1983 in part because of massive renovation costs.
"Some of those trade-offs need to be understood," she said.
Vice chairman Dana F. Hanna said that many critics equate the new buildings with high costs.
"They see pretty and they equate it in terms of dollars," he said. "When you're putting in a new facility, you can't buy brand old."
During its regular 4 p.m. meeting, the board will approve negotiation teams for contract discussions with the Howard County Education Association.
The board also will delay formal approval of an Educational and Personal Rights Policy, which will standardize discipline for hate or bias incidents.
The schools' new human relations coordinator, Jacqueline F. Brown, wants to place more emphasis on education rather than punishment, Ms. Kendig said.
Under the current proposal, students who physically intimidate, threaten physical harm or physically assault would be suspended immediately. Those who commit a second offense would be suspended and might be expelled.
Guidelines also would require students to attend a meeting with their parents and the principal if they verbally harass, defame, intimidate or use profanity. Students would also receive counseling and participate in educational activities.
What Board of Education meeting.
Where School board meeting rooms, 10910 Route 108, Ellicott City.
When 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.