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School board urged to speed up funding for proposed high school


More than 350 people crowded the Anne Arundel County Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis last night to have their say on how Superintendent Carol S. Parham's proposed $70 million capital budget should be spent in 2002.

More than 200 advocates for a new high school for the west county turned out in purple, the color they hope will represent what would be the county's 13th public high school.

They urged the board to move $50,000 in allotted planning money for the new school to the 2001-2002 fiscal year, instead of waiting an extra year.

"Now is the time to build the high school," said Richard R. Trunnell, co-chair of the 13th High School Now Committee and president of the Crofton Civic Association. "By 2007, if a new high school is not built, our school system will be in complete crisis."

State Sen. Robert R. Neall expressed his support for the new school but said he had concerns about the projected $63 million price tag. Neall noted that the estimated cost of the next high school planned for Howard County is only $41 million.

"The $63 million has me a little bit nonplused," Neall said. "My job is to get state money [for which] the competition is very keen."

Parham's spending plan includes $2.2 million in planning and construction money for Marley Middle School. A study is being done to determine whether to go forward with a replacement school or modernize the existing one.

The crowd urged the board to build a new one, and some Marley students told the board about the school's antiquated plumbing and lack of air conditioning.

Also getting strong support from the crowd was a plan to build a $10 million gym at North County High School in Ferndale.

Parham's $70 million budget and a six-year building plan, which she unveiled at a Sept. 6 board meeting, represent a shift from repairing older schools to constructing new buildings. The spending plan is 18 percent less than last year's capital budget.

Notably absent from the proposal is the funding for repairs and maintenance that have been included in the past two capital budgets. The spending plan for the current fiscal year includes a $40 million county contribution toward resolving the system's maintenance backlog.

Parham has earmarked $17 million for maintenance in her fiscal 2002 capital plan.

The top construction priority in the proposal is a 460-student addition at North County High School in Ferndale, the cost of which has risen in the past year from $12 million to $17.7 million.

Other major budget requests include:

$5.9 million for the first phase of a 400-seat expansion at Southern Middle School.

$3 million to continue construction on a Davidsonville Elementary School replacement.

$1.9 million to continue construction on a Glendale Elementary School replacement facility.

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