$300 million capital plan proposed School building, renovations featured


Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's 10-year, $300 million capital budget proposal is conservative and reasonable, according to school administration officials who unveiled the plan before the Board of Education last night.

The proposal calls for the construction, renovation and replacement of 21 elementary, middle and high schools, as well as seven related projects, such as renovations and portable classroom purchases.

The spending plan is targeted largely at the problems of aging buildings and accommodating a 13,000-student increase in school enrollment over the next decade.

Board members were particularly interested in recommended additions to four high schools -- at Centennial and Hammond highs in 1997, Mount Hebron in the year 2000, and Howard High in 2001.

Some members said the additions may change their decision to redistrict students in the Dorsey Hall neighborhood from Centennial to the new western high school, scheduled to open in 1996.

Dorsey Hall parents had lobbied for school officials to build an addition at Centennial to free space for a technology magnet program at the western high school. The proposal would increase the capacity at Centennial by 300 students.

"It may have an effect, but it may not have an effect people wanted," said Susan Cook, board vice chairwoman.

She said the proposal may now allow board members to redistrict some students from the Mount Hebron district to the western high school, or perhaps turn Wilde Lake High into a technology education magnet school or performing arts center, among other options.

Board member Deborah Kendig said the proposal warrants further exploration because the board had not discussed the feasibility of expansions for existing schools. She was afraid some schools would not have the land to expand, among other concerns.

The board will hold an Oct. 7 public hearing and an Oct. 12 public work session before their scheduled vote on the capital budget Oct. 14.

In other matters, the board approved preliminary designs for a $25 million eastern high school scheduled to open in 1996 in Long Reach. The three-story building will serve as a technology magnet school and will have two floors of math and science-technology clusters. It will also have a separate ninth-grade cluster as well as one for the humanities.

The school would have no exterior windows, only windows on interior walls facing a common area illuminated by skylights.

Special education students would be taught on the third floor, a plan that concerned board member Susan Cook. She was afraid disabled students would have to rely on one elevator in case of fire or emergency evacuation. School planners agreed to look into the issue and will return with another recommendation before the board gives final approval in November.

The board also decided to postpone an Oct. 28 hearing for the newly proposed Employee Discipline Policy, which would set out in written form employee conduct violations and penalties. Currently, there are no written guidelines or standards for employees to follow.

The proposal makes it a violation for employees engaging in acts of "immorality," including obscene conduct or language, child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of minors or inducing students or others to participate in immoral acts.

The proposal also lists 13 types of "misconduct in office," including knowing failure to report suspected child abuse, intimidating students or staff, and dating or having sexual relations with students.

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