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The $63 million school

THE BALTIMORE SUN

YALE STENZLER was stunned when he heard the figure -- $63 million for a proposed high school in western Anne Arundel.

Dr. Stenzler had never heard a number approaching this amount for a high school -- not in Maryland, where he serves as executive director of the state's public school construction program.

Perhaps the costliest school ever built in Maryland, he said, is Montgomery Blair High, the college campus-like complex in Silver Spring that carried a $43 million price tag.

Anne Arundel's new school would dwarf Montgomery Blair's cost, so county officials had better refigure their math. They're thinking too big, too expensive and -- yes -- too outrageous for a high school building.

Here is the school system's projected breakdown of costs:

Construction, $36.7 million; site development, $7.6 million; other construction-related costs, $2.6 million; furnishings, fixtures and equipment, $7.3 million; design, $4.2 million; land acquisition, $2 million; technology, $2 million; off-site construction, $360,000; and project support $879,000.

Yes, Anne Arundel will need a new West County high school soon to serve the surging population in the Crofton-Odenton area. But there's no need to break the bank building it.

And don't forget, the county's proposal must fall within set standards to obtain state funds. Dr. Stenzler, whose office approves state funding for new schools, indicates that the square-foot cost of the proposed Anne Arundel school would be too high.

County officials say their estimates predict that construction costs will rise sharply and steadily between 2002 and 2005, when the work is likely to be done.

But their record-setting figure needs downsizing. The sticker shock could crush local and state support for a necessary project.

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