Three strikes and you're still not out, thank goodness, if the goal is to get a badly needed new middle school for children in rapidly growing southern Carroll County.
Three times, the state Interagency Committee for School Construction has turned down county requests to help fund an additional middle school in the Sykesville area. Yet the under-12 population continues to grow. New construction developments there make it a future growth area for young children into the next decade.
This fall, the Sykesville Middle School will be 200 pupils above its capacity, with 10 relocatable classrooms targeted for use there. By the fall of 1997, the enrollment is projected to be 300 students more than it can effectively manage.
This overcrowding is not sufficient, however, to convince the state that a new school building is needed -- and for the state to pay the all-important 65 percent of the cost. Even if approval is received later this year, it would be too late for many because it takes four years to design and construct the school. That wouldn't help any child due to enter Sykesville Middle this fall.
With the 20-acre site on Oklahoma Road already in hand, the county must continue to press the state agency for approval of the South Carroll school as its top priority. The state is repeatedly telling counties that it will fund less and less, to meet its own budget squeeze.
The state agency may still reject a planned 800-pupil structure, but it could approve a 500-student building. Carroll County should be prepared to pick up the balance and to fund an expansion on its own.
In addition, the county could use the prototype design of the New Windsor Middle School to save time and money in erecting the new building.
In the meantime, the county could consider some minor redistricting in the south, to share the overcrowding pain between Sykesville Middle and Mount Airy Middle, which will remain at less than full capacity through the 1997-98 academic year.
Five of the seven Carroll County middle schools will be over capacity in four years. While elementary schools have been built to meet expanding needs, attention to the middle-school bulge has not seemed as pressing. Now is the time to get that new school building under way.