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Officials cut size of Park school Board questions move to build elementary for 450, not 600 pupils


First, the county school system designed several schools with excess seating capacity. Now they're building one smaller than it was intended to be. The revelation that Park Elementary will be built to hold 450 studentight.

"The contract was awarded for a 450-student capacity due to lack of funds," Rodell Phaire, the school system's director of planning and construction, told board members and citizens attending the meeting.

News of the latest construction snag brought tough questions from board members on that and other projects.

"Park was to be built exactly like Solley Elementary, which meant it was a 600-capacity building," said board member Thomas Twombly. "My problem is you're telling me now that Park is at 450. Enrollment is projected to be 546. Why am I building a school that I'll have to add relocatables to right away?"

Other board members, including Thomas Florestano and Carlesa Finney, then began questioning the capacity of middle schools being built in the north county. The projects are part of a complicated plan in which the old Andover High School and the Brooklyn Park-Lindale building are to be renovated to hold 900 students -- the optimum number for a school holding grades six through eight.

But school planning officers confirmed last night that the Andover building, slated to open in January, will actually hold 1,658 students according to the state capacity formula -- a figure up from earlier estimates that originally called the project into question.

When the building opens, 945 middle school students from the Brooklyn Park-Lindale building will transfer in, and work is slated to begin on the vacated building.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham reminded the board that staff members had been told to design schools for the academic program -- which in this case means limiting the number of students attending the school to 900.

"We have 1,600 seats and 945 students, and you're saying it's a philosophy of education that makes up the difference?" asked Dr. Florestano, a retired president of Anne Arundel Community College. "I spent 38 years in the business, and I don't buy it."

Ms. Finney asked: "At what point in this are we going to decide which capacity we're going to use?" But she was reminded by a planning officer that the board decided this year to accept the state formula for capacity.

The school system has come under fire in recent weeks for wasting $7.5 million on about a dozen projects because of mistakes that stemmed from outright slip-ups by contractors and the department to lack of planning.

The board must approve the construction budget and submit it by Oct. 16 to the state agency that oversees school construction.

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