New school proposed by Hickey; Capital spending plan seeks northeastern elementary by 2003; Total package $51 million


School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey unveiled last night a capital spending plan that would commit the county to building a new northeastern elementary school to alleviate overcrowding.

The plan would dedicate more than $11 million to open the school by 2003 and allay the concerns of residents like Courtney Watson of Ellicott City, whose two children attend the crowded Ilchester Elementary School.

Watson said she was pleased that the school was included in the building plan, but was afraid the time line was too slow.

"[The year] 2003 is really not soon enough unless they have a plan to deal with the overcrowding between now and then," Watson said. "I hope that we can find a way to open the school before the fall of 2003."

Last night, Hickey also submitted a proposed capital budget for next fiscal year that includes $21 million for a previously approved new Fulton area high school, set to open in 2002.

The $51 million building plan for fiscal year 2001, which begins July 1, also includes funds for numerous additions and renovations to existing schools.

The school board was discussing the proposals last night, and will vote on the document Oct. 14.

The crowding in the northeast and other growing areas of the county prompted the school district in recent months to discuss a general redrawing of district lines to move students from crowded schools into older neighborhood schools that are less populated.

The development of a comprehensive plan to redistrict the county's schools, which was scheduled to be considered this school year, may be postponed until 2003, said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent for planning, because the district reduced class sizes and eliminated many seats needed for such a move.

Even with the proposed redistricting, Watson said, the northeast area schools still will be crowded.

"Very simply, we need the new school open before 2003," she said.

Funds for renovations

The proposed capital budget includes funding for renovations and additions to Centennial High School, $6.4 million; Atholton High School, $295,000; Pointers Run Elementary, $1.4 million; Forest Ridge Elementary, $1.1 million; Hollifield Station Elementary, $199,000, and Clarksville Elementary, $312,000.

Almost $7 million is proposed to construct an Alternative Learning Center for some of the county's most troubled students; and $872,000 for equipment at Ellicott Mills Middle School, which is being overhauled.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed capital budget at 7: 30 p.m. Oct. 7.

Also last night, board members adopted a revised dress code policy that authorizes principals to establish level-wide regulations for students' attire. For example, elementary school principals can enact rules for all county elementary students.

"[Principals are] in these schools every day, we're not," Hickey said. "They have to have discretion."

The board revisited the dress code policy, Hickey said, because of principals' concerns about uniformity.

Changes allowed

The new policy also allows individual schools to make additional changes.

No major changes were made in what students can wear to school and school-related events.

The board also heard last night presentations from middle school administrators regarding their efforts to improve academic instruction and more adequately prepare students for high school.

Hickey requested the 10-point Middle School Initiatives plan after a parents group released a 180-page evaluation of Howard middle schools in October 1996.

The evaluation criticized middle schools and called for major changes in such areas as curriculum, assessments and scheduling.

Administrators told the board that middle schools, as a group, were well on their way to completely meeting all 10 goals.

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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