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Panel proposes delay for schools Planning board makes recommendations for Westminster area


County funding for Westminster-area middle and high schools should be delayed by two years until 2005, the planning commission recommended yesterday in its final review of the county's proposed capital improvement plan.

The panel approved a draft version of the six-year spending plan with its recommendations and forwarded the document to the county commissioners.

The plan covers fiscal years 2000 to 2005.

The planning commission said its recommendations on the school funding requests were made more difficult because education officials had not furnished them with the most current enrollment projections.

"We've got to have more facts to do these things," said panel member Edward Beard.

The draft version of the capital improvement plan, prepared by the county office of management and budget, includes $29.5 million for the Westminster-area high school and $15 million for the middle school.

The county Board of Education had planned to open both schools in 2003 to ease crowding. Westminster High School, which was built for 2,000 students, has an enrollment of 2,361 this year. One of the county's most crowded schools is Westminster West Middle, which has a population of 1,166 and a capacity of 900.

Planning Commission Vice Chairwoman Deborah L. Ridgely suggested leaving funding for both projects in the proposed capital improvement plan until school officials provided the latest enrollment projections.

But other panel members strongly disagreed.

"The Board of Education has had the same amount of time as every other department around here to get their figures in here. Every week we get a new set of numbers," said commission member Grant S. Dannelly.

"I think it's wrong of them to stonewall us," he said.

The planning commission's recommendations on school construction might reignite the controversy that flared in May 1997 when the South Carroll and Westminster communities clashed over which should get a new high school first.

Although the school board had planned to build the Westminster high school first, a well-organized group of South Carroll residents convinced the board that crowding was more acute in their area.

Planning and design work has begun for the $29.4 million South Carroll high school, scheduled to open in 2001 on property adjacent to Linton Springs Elementary School.

"As far as I'm concerned, the two high schools are political footballs anyway," Dannelly said. "We need one high school and one middle school."

Pub Date: 12/03/98

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