Howard County school board members have rejected the possibility of building a high school near the county's Alpha Ridge Landfill, making it all the more probable the school will be in the small Mount View neighborhood that has been fighting to keep it out.
Board members voted last week against the landfill site, even though school system officials had not reported any environmental or topographical problems with it. Board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt said she did not want to wait for the research.
"We had a very unfortunate and unpleasant situation with the landfill thing when we were talking about the northeast elementary school," said Schuchardt. "And look at all we're going through with Worthington [Elementary]. I just didn't want to put money into it and decide later not to do it."
The board's 3-2 decision to not consider the site, near Waverly Woods, was unexpected. Staff members were in the process of determining how much work it would take to make the site viable.
"It came as a surprise to me," said Sydney L. Cousin, the system's chief operating officer.
The board approved a much-contested Marriottsville site last month as the home of Howard County's 12th high school, but agreed to direct Cousin's office to look at the property near Waverly Woods, which was offered to the system by developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr.
Reuwer is developing the land for residential and commercial use.
The parcel is larger than the Mount View site and has water and sewer systems, but the Alpha Ridge Landfill is on two sides of it. Last spring, school officials had to pass on an elementary school site near the closed New Cut Landfill in the northeast because of health and safety concerns of parents.
Schuchardt said she felt it would have been difficult to get the three board votes necessary to approve the site even if Cousin's architects and engineers had given the go-ahead.
"We've dealt with landfill situations and all that before," she said. "Why put a school there that might bring us problems down the road?"
Parents who live near Worthington Elementary School -- built on top of a landfill, and on the brink of a hard-fought soil replacement project -- applauded the school system for the decision to not pursue Alpha Ridge.
"Being a Worthington parent, I just want to say thank you for NOT putting another school next to a landfill," Diane Goodridge, secretary of Parents for Safe Schools, wrote in a letter to the board. "It was a wise move, and you should be commended for your action to reject it."
Although Cousin said his office is considering other potential sites, Schuchardt said, "Mount View is the site unless something else comes up."
Parents and Marriottsville neighbors near the Mount View site have tried to convince the board that the location is inappropriate for a building as large as a high school. They are concerned about parking, increased traffic, crowded playing fields and student safety.