250 lobby for their schools at budget hearing


More than 250 people turned out last night to lobby for their local schools at a public hearing on the proposed capital budget for county schools for next year.

More than 90 people wore stickers that proclaimed, "I support Southern Middle." Some carried signs supporting Ridgewood Elementary. Members of other contingents pleaded on behalf of other schools.

Several times, after a speaker asked his or her supporters to stand, groups of 20 to 30 rose to their feet.

The school board is to act on Superintendent Carol S. Parham's $36.6 million capital wish list at its Oct. 5 meeting, and more changes may occur before the budget is presented to county officials in March.

The board is debating the capital budget now because Oct. 15 is the deadline to apply for state money for capital projects. Dr. Parham proposes to ask the state for about $7.5 million of the proposed capital budget.

Jon Sherbun, chairman of the Greater Crofton Community Based Schooling Committee, asked the board to use for a new West County high school $2.7 million in waiver fees earmarked for a new Crofton middle school. "There is no proposed school capital project that would relieve overcrowding for more students than the building of the West County high school," he said.

Jean Meeks, whose daughter is a sixth-grader at Southern Middle School in Lothian, said, "Southern Middle School is now the most severely overcrowded middle school in Anne Arundel County." Overcrowding compromises safety in hallways and stairways between classes, she said. Lunch is served continuously from 10:21 a.m. until 1:41 p.m., and some students have five straight classes before a lunch break.

Sharon Whitmore, vice president of the Brooklyn Park/Lindale PTA, asked the board to designate money for middle schools in the North County. "Other areas have had middle schools for years," she said.

Tasha Samonisky, 7, a second-grader at Ridgeway Elementary in Severn, asked the board for money for renovations at her school. She recalled an awards assembly last year, when temperatures in the multi-purpose room, which is not air conditioned, exceeded 100 degrees.

"It felt like it was 200 degrees," she said. "Please give us money so that my school may be better. Thank you."

Her father, Allan Samonisky, said the school's leaky roof causes water to collect in light fixtures, and portable classrooms have no plumbing.

"No one should have to be exposed to these conditions," he said.

In other business last night, the board:

* Approved a labor contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

* Approved the creation at North County High School of a pilot program designed to ease students' transition from school to the workplace.

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