Board OKs '95 budget for schools


The Howard County school board approved yesterday a $41 million capital budget for fiscal 1995 that does not include planning money for an addition to Centennial High School.

The five-member board deferred for one year spending $219,000 for planning the addition to the Ellicott City school. Board members said they were uncomfortable with funding the proposal because they lacked details about a technology magnet program for the new western high school that would have required the addition.

School officials had wanted to reserve space at the new school for the technology magnet program but were considering redistricting the Dorsey Hall community into the new western high school in 1996 instead. If the new school got the magnet program, Centennial would add 300 seats and Dorsey Hall could remain in the Centennial district.

"I would like to have in hand some estimate, some idea in operating costs of the technology program," said board member Deborah Kendig.

"We've pushed the transportation [costs] to the limit," she said. "We have to know what the specific requirements are. We don't know what the specific requirements are."

School board Chairman Dana Hanna said, "I am wary of [having] a major commitment into something that when people ask me questions, I can't provide [the answers]."

The board also deferred for a year spending $100,000 to plan for renovations at the School of Technology in Ellicott City. That project is also tied to the technology magnet proposal.

Among the highlights of the capital budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 are:

* Nearly $400,000 in planning money for a second northern elementary school to relieve crowding at St. John's Lane Elementary School. The $6.6 million project will be moved up one year, and the school is expected to open in 1997.

* $233,000 in planning money for the proposed $4.3 million expansion of Hammond High School. The expansion is expected to be completed in 1997, when Hammond is projected to be 325 students over capacity.

In addition, the board added $100,000 to the budget to fund a study of all high schools to determine whether they can be expanded.

* Four older schools will get $5.5 million in renovations. Wilde Lake Middle School will receive almost half of the money to replace the roof and for duct work and carpeting.

Other schools that will undergo renovations include Patapsco Middle, Owen Brown Middle/Dasher Green elementary and Stevens Forest Elementary, which is scheduled to get a new gym.

At public hearings this year, parents clamored for the board to spend more on renovating older schools at a time when the emphasis is on building new schools to keep up with increases in student enrollment.

During yesterday's discussions, Susan Cooke, vice chairwoman of the board, proposed increasing money for renovations from $5.5 million to $8 million. But school officials rejected the idea, saying they did not have enough staff members or time to handle more than a couple of major renovation projects during the 10-week summer break.

The school system had requested roughly $3 million for renovations this year but got $1 million.

Board members urged communities to lobby the County Council and the county executive for more money to renovate and build schools. They also called on communities to stop fighting with each other over redistricting and construction and renovation projects.

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