With little debate, the Anne Arundel school board approved Superintendent Carol S. Parham's $55 million construction budget yesterday, the first step in her plans addressing redistricting and crowding for the next two decades.
The board unanimously approved the capital spending proposal and voted to move construction of a new Seven Oaks Elementary School higher on the list of priorities.
It also set aside about $900,000 so that planning for the school can begin in 2001 instead of 2006. Seven Oaks would be completed in 2004 instead of 2009.
Vaughn Brown, a board member from west county, proposed moving up the project to ease crowding at Odenton Elementary School.
"Odenton Elementary is now our most crowded elementary," he said during the session in Annapolis. "They are living with a yard of relocatables, and that isn't right. We need to do something about it."
The 2001 capital budget, which hinges on County Council approval in May, reflects Parham's plans for easing crowding at county schools. Her proposed solutions include building 400-seat additions at North County High School in Linthicum and at Southern Middle School in Edgewater.
Parham and the board earmarked $8 million to begin the North County project and $9.9 million for the first phase of the Southern Middle School addition.
In addition, $250,000 was set aside to start work on Chesapeake Middle School in Pasadena, which, under Parham's plan to ease classroom crowding, would be split into two middle schools housed in the huge building.
The superintendent's plan was presented to the board in June in response to a consultant's report warning that shifting school enrollments over the next 20 years would cram classrooms beyond what they could handle. About 600 middle and high school students would be redistricted in the plan.
Parham did not propose a 13th high school, a popular idea among some west county parents who do not want their children shifted to other schools to ease crowding at Arundel High. Parham moved that project lower on the list of construction projects and recommended that it be reviewed in 2003.
Other projects in Parham's capital budget proposal include $3.2 million to replace Davidsonville Elementary School and $7.1 million for construction of a new Glendale Elementary in Glen Burnie.
Work on those projects is expected to begin in the spring.
The proposal also includes an additional $13.2 million from the state, more than double what the county has received in each of the past several years. County Executive Janet S. Owens and state legislators lobbied to ensure that Anne Arundel got its share of the additional money being made available by the Glendening administration for school construction.
Owens has funneled $40 million of county money to help pay for school repairs. This year, a 39-member citizens committee issued a report saying that about $417 million is needed to repair and modernize schools around the county.