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School board's legislative agenda includes construction, redictricting


In preparation for the 1994 General Assembly, Harford's legislative delegation sat down last week with the school board to hear what county educators hope to gain from the annual legislative session that begins Jan. 12.

To show the school system's successful track record, school Superintendent Ray R. Keech pointed to the annual Maryland School Performance test results showing that the county had met 11 of the 13 criteria stipulated by the state, rating excellent in seven categories.

"The focus is on the fact that the county is giving a good punch with the buck," Dr. Keech said. The county, which spends $5,005 a student, ranks 20th in the state in per-pupil spending.

He also updated lawmakers on school construction needs and meetings before the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC), the state committee that decides how the building funds will be spent.

He said no decisions had been made on the projects -- which include requests for prekindergarten classrooms, renovations of high school science labs and modernization of several elementary schools -- but that they looked "promising."

Del. Mary Louise Preis, D-34th, who has accompanied the superintendent before the IAC, reiterated his comments, adding that "there is a need for attention to the bay area schools." Many of those schools are included in the capital budget priorities for 1994-1995.

In an update on construction problems that caused Fallston Middle School to open two weeks late and postponed until September 1994 the opening of Church Creek Elementary School in Belcamp, Dr. Keech said he had to "reserve comments because of litigation, but, when it is all over, it will be demonstrated that it was not the [school] system that caused the delays."

Dr. Keech also informed delegation members about the redistricting of Aberdeen's elementary schools. He said it was an outgrowth of establishing the attendance area for Church Creek Elementary, which would pull some students from those schools.

A committee was set up to make redistricting decisions, based on such factors as racial and socio- economic balance and school and class sizes. The recommendations are to be presented to the board at its next meeting Jan. 10.

Busing of students also was discussed. Dr. Keech said that he and the school board are reviewing the policy that denies bus transportation to elementary school students who live one mile or less from school.

"I'm concerned about the yahoos out there who might kidnap kids," he said. "Society is changing."

State Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A, agreed with the superintendent about the busing of small children. "We can't afford to take a chance," he said. "I'd be willing to put legislation in for it."

Bel Air resident Kathy Casey, a member of the Committee to Bus All Children, also made a busing plea for children who attend nonpublic schools. "I'm asking for bus transportation to be provided equally to our children also," she said.

"They should be afforded the same safe transportation."

The Governor's Commission on School Funds is looking at alternative ways to pay for education in the state, but its final proposal won't be submitted to the governor until January.

"We'll have to wait and see what is proposed," Mr. Amoss said.

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