Parents to start lobbying Goal is replacing elementary school never renovated


It's about time for a new school, say the parents, students and administrators at Ridgeway Elementary School in Severn.

The parents, who plan to launch a lobbying effort tomorrow at the Board of Education's capital budget hearing, say the 39-year-old building on Evergreen Road has never been renovated.

The bathrooms flood regularly, the electricity fails, floor tiles are laced with asbestos, the cafeteria doubles as a gymnasium and brown patches the size of pizzas have formed on the ceilings from a leaking roof.

"When it rains, you'll find seven or eight buckets," said Maria Samonisky, a spokeswoman for the school PTA. "Last year we lost two computers."

Replacing the school, a $9.8 million project, is second on Superintendent Carol S. Parham's construction priority list. But even if the county school board approves the list intact, it still must get past the County Council, the county executive and state officials before work can begin. And Ridgeway supporters aren't taking anything for granted.

Last year the Board of Education approved $387,000 to design a new Ridgeway school. Last spring, County Executive John G. Gary postponed the money for a year, but the County Council restored the money to the capital budget.

Ridgeway supporters fear the same thing could happen to the school's construction money.

"I'm confident the board will support us," Ridgeway Principal A. Duane Arbogast said. "I just think the money is tight. John Gary is going to have to say no to somebody. Hopefully not to us."

Mr. Arbogast said he hopes the board and politicians will see the needs of his 454 students, especially because the three-story school is not accessible to the disabled. There is one student who uses crutches and there is little Mr. Arbogast can do to accommodate him.

"Fortunately he is in kindergarten and only uses the steps once a week for the library," Mr. Arbogast said. "Next year, it'll be more of a problem."

The Board of Education approved the design of the new school this month, said Rhodell Phaire, direction of planning and construction.

The new school wouldn't have the maintenance problems of the old building. It also would have air conditioning, a computer lab, science lab and separate cafeteria and gymnasium.

County Councilman Bert L. Rice, who represents Severn, said he is confident about securing money for Ridgeway.

"I believe this council is behind this project," said Mr. Rice. "We're going to get the school built."

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