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School too small, parents complain Solutions include portable classrooms, transfer of students


Park Elementary School students could be squeezed into a new building that is not big enough for them next September, or some of them could be forced to go to a different school.

Parents are outraged.

"They're asking us for options and we don't want any options. We want a school that's big enough," said Edward Kosack III, president of the Park Elementary School PTA. "We're really burned up."

Park was supposed to hold 600 students, but the county school board reduced the capacity of the building to 450. However, school documents show that 550 students are expected to be enrolled at Park next fall.

Despite parents' anger, school officials say the crowding problem is only temporary.

"The overcrowding is only an issue until the sixth-graders move out of Park and into the new Brooklyn Park Middle School," said Rodell Phaire, director of planning and construction for the county Board of Education. "Should we build additional capacity for a short-term problem?"

The Brooklyn Park Middle School project, a renovation of an existing building, is scheduled to be completed in 2000.

"What we're looking for is a no-cost solution," Mr. Phaire said. "Obviously, if we ended up with portable classrooms, there would be some costs associated with that, so that's not one of the more desirable solutions."

School officials are to meet with parents at 7 tonight at the school to discuss what to do with the 100 extra students.

"All along we've been told this school would be the same size as Solley Elementary, which holds 600 students," Mr. Kosack said.

He said parents accept that Park had to be redesigned when flaws were found in the prototype on which it was based. But they remain upset that a school construction project already $1 million over budget won't meet their children's needs.

"I think we've been misled," Mr. Kosack said. "If they're going to spend the money, they might as well spend it to get what's really needed."

Park isn't the only school construction project to draw fire. County Executive John G. Gary, too, is upset by what he views as mismanagement.

He wants the county Public Works Department to take over the responsibility of constructing school buildings.

Controversy over school construction projects began in late summer when it was discovered that several schools were designed to be larger than the size approved by state and county administrators.

In addition, architectural errors, unforeseen circumstances and outright mistakes have cost the county about $7.5 million.

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