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Parents voice concerns on school renovations


Parents asked for little things -- such as televisions and new desks -- and big items -- like a new heating and cooling system and a new school -- at last night's Howard County school board hearing on construction and renovations.

Some 20 parents testified at the hearing on capital improvements to the schools. Last year, about three or four parents testified, board members said.

Henry Ziegler, a parent, complained about Wilde Lake Middle School's faulty ventilation system, a problem at many schools. He also said the school's heating and air conditioning system triggered respiratory illnesses among students and staff members during the school year.

"The dust, the chemical fumes, the heat -- or lack thereof -- all lead to the inevitable conclusion that this is a school whose climatic conditions are completely out of control," Mr. Ziegler said. "There are not enough thermostats, and many of those that are in place are in the wrong place to be properly effective."

Deborah Medoff, a parent from St. John's Lane Elementary School, said a new northern-area elementary school should be built to relieve crowding at St. John's.

"Overcrowding is not a temporary phenomenon," she said, adding that nearby apartment complexes will provide a steady stream of students.

Pam Smithson, Glenwood Middle School's PTA president, said the school had undergone only two major renovations over the past 25 years -- new air conditioning and asbestos removal.

Some of the testimony last night echoed that heard at hearings on the redrawing of school boundary lines. Parents from Dorsey Hall said the school system should follow through on its recommendation in March to build additions to Centennial and other high schools that will become overcrowded in the next 10 years. The Dorsey Hall community will be redistricted from Centennial to the new western high school in 1996.

Jane Jeffries, a parent, said building additions instead of new schools would mean redistricting fewer students, thus allowing continuity and stability in neighborhoods.

"We want the least number of students moved," she said. "We want money spent carefully. In short, we want additions."

Others from Dorsey Hall said building additions would save the school system $22 million in construction costs.

Bob Kaufman, a parent, said building additions was "more flexible and much less drastic, and it doesn't require as many changes in school boundaries."

Parents in other communities disagreed.

Columbia resident William Tyson said that instead of building an addition to Centennial, Wilde Lake High School should be expanded to accommodate students from nearby communities.

Wilde Lake is the county's smallest and most under-enrolled high school and was the subject of this year's redistricting battle. It will undergo a face lift costing more than $20 million in 1994, necessitating the move of its students to the new western high school for two years while the work is being done.

To spend money on an addition at Centennial when there are seats available at Wilde Lake would be "fiscally irresponsible and . . . unconscionable," said Mr. Tyson, whose Beaverbrook community has been scheduled to be redistricted from Centennial to Wilde Lake in 1994.

Marianne Hollerbach, a parent, echoed Mr. Tyson's argument and suggested the school board increase capacity at Wilde Lake to 1,400 students. Most county high schools hold around 1,200 students.

"Wilde Lake High School is centrally located and can draw students from the Atholton and Centennial high schools," said Mrs. Hollerbach, who lives in the same neighborhood as Mr. Tyson. "This truly will relieve overcrowding at Centennial."

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