County schools to appeal 'no' on state funding


Carroll school officials will appeal a preliminary state decision not to pay for a new middle school on Oklahoma Road, said Vernon Smith, director of support services for Carroll County Schools.

County officials had been counting on the state to pay half of the estimated $12.5 million cost of the school, which would relieve overcrowding at Sykesville Middle School.

That was not the only disappointing news Mr. Smith got in a letter this month from the staff of the Interagency Committee on School Construction.

State officials said they will recommend only one of four projects he had requested from the Interagency Committee. And even that one -- renovation of Taneytown Elementary School -- will get $1 million less than county officials expected.

But South Carroll parents are hanging on to what the three county commissioners said earlier this fall: If the state won't pay for a new Oklahoma Road school, the county will.

"I sure hope the commissioners remember their promise to build that school," said Kathy Horneman of Eldersburg, a mother of five and member of a coalition to convince state and county officials of the need to relieve overcrowding at Sykesville Middle.

"If they don't, we'll have 1,000 people reminding them," Ms. Horneman said.

Last March, 500 parents and students packed Sykesville Middle School to demand county and state agreement to build the school earlier than 1998, when it had been scheduled.

Sykesville Middle is more than 200 students over its capacity of 855.

Ms. Horneman, who has a son in sixth grade there, said that by the time he is in seventh grade the school will have 1,300 students.

The only Carroll project that state workers plan to recommend to the committee is the renovation and expansion of Taneytown Elementary School.

But, because enrollment slipped this year, the state will pay for a school for 400 students.

The county is building one for 600 students, because housing developments and trends indicate that the space will be needed, Mr. Smith said.

That leaves the county paying the difference to build the larger school.

The total is expected to be $6 million. Carroll officials requested $2.8 million from the state. The recommendation is now $1.6 million.

Projects for which the state officials will recommend no state financing are: Oklahoma Road Middle School; air-conditioning work at South Carroll High; a new roof at Robert Moton Elementary; and planning approval, without money, for the expansion of Elmer Wolfe Elementary.

The state committee will meet to hear appeals on the staff recommendations Dec. 14.

The committee's decisions will go to the Board of Public Works for final approval.

"I'm disappointed, especially with the lack of planning recognition for these important projects," Mr. Smith said.

Before they can get state money, local schools must ask the state for recognition to plan a project. In an unusual move, Carroll asked for planning recognition and money in the same year for Oklahoma Road, and got neither.

Mr. Smith said Carroll officials must show the state that 400 students would be ready to occupy the Oklahoma Road school by the time it is built for a capacity of 800 students.

The development of new homes in the area is expected to fill the school, but Mr. Smith said the state doesn't take housing projects into consideration for approving schools. State workers use the existing population, plus a formula based on the past enrollment growth at the school, in deciding what to recommend.

Mr. Smith said he knew that the numbers for Oklahoma Road were "soft," but he expected that the state would at least approve planning for the school.

The Carroll County school board voted on a design for the Oklahoma Road school last month, saving money by using plans for the New Windsor Middle School as a prototype.

A contest to name the school is under way, and the project will be advertised for bids in the spring. The school could be completed by 1996.

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