If $650,000 is what it takes for the new Park Elementary School to hold all the students that will be assigned there when it opens in September, then the county school board should spend it, according to Brooklyn Park parents.
Parents say they are outraged that the new school has been designed to hold 450 students instead of 600 as promised. And with 550 students expected to be enrolled there come September, about 100 students will be left without seats.
Last night, the parents met with school planners to discuss several options:
* Add four more classrooms at a cost of $650,000 to the building now under construction.
* Send sixth-graders to the newly renovated Andover Middle School when it opens in December.
* Send some students to nearby Brooklyn Park Elementary School.
* Do an overall redistricting of school attendance boundaries in the area.
Parents refused to even discuss another option -- using portable classrooms.
"No portables," most of the 45 parents assembled replied as Thomas Rhoades, director of the county school board's information management services division, tried to detail what that decision could mean for students.
"All right, if you really don't want to hear it, I won't waste my time or yours discussing that option," Dr. Rhoades said. But he warned that the parents' apparent first choice, judging from the questions they asked in debate, has "consequences."
"We could add four more classrooms to the school at a cost of $650,000, but if we decided to do that, those classrooms wouldn't be finished until about six months after the school was opened," Dr. Rhoades said.
Although parents said they were concerned about what other projects might have to be cut to come up with the money, most said they were determined that the community get what was promised.
"Absolutely the first choice should be to expand the building," said Tammy Spano, who has two children at Park. "It's not just because we want a nice building, but we can't shut out those 80 or 100 extra students. So many of these students get shut out at home, we can't shut them out of school. This is where we can give them support."
Park PTA President Edward Kosack III said parents have only one goal in their protest over the decision to reduce the size of Park: "We deserve to have a school where all our children will have seats to sit in," he said. "What gets built will last for 20 to 25 years, and the most important thing is the welfare of our children.
"They promised Solley Elementary would be 600, and that's what was built, and Meade Heights Elementary, the next school to be built, will hold 550 students. If they're going to build a school here, they should do it right."