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Teachers urge plan to replace Mount Hebron

The Baltimore Sun

A group of teachers at Mount Hebron High School wants county and school officials to hold off on a proposed renovation plan and instead look at building a replacement school.

Mark Cates, one of the group's organizers, said yesterday that the "proposal by the staff at Mount Hebron High School" was sent Monday night to County Executive Ken Ulman, County Council members and the school board. He said the "position paper" has 105 signatures.

The group wants an evaluation process to be adopted if the cost of a renovation exceeds 50 percent of the cost of a new building. A proposed renovation plan for the Ellicott City school, which opened in 1964 as a junior high, would cost $57 million, according to school system officials. A replacement school, according to the same officials, would cost roughly $90 million.

"Let's do what's right and let's meet the students' and staff's needs at Mount Hebron High School," said Cates, a social studies teacher who has worked there 20 years.

Cates said the group was encouraged on April 1 when Ulman put $27 million into a contingency fund pending agreement on the renovation plan. The group, which met yesterday in his classroom, saw Ulman's actions as an opportunity to voice their opposition to a renovation plan, which has the support of school system officials and some parents.

Cates said the teachers are willing to wait several years, if necessary, to get a replacement school built.

It is unlikely that the group's petition will sway school officials, according to Ken Roey, executive director of facilities and management for the school system. The school board is scheduled to approve a schematic design for Mount Hebron's renovation tomorrow.

"It's a good discussion, but I don't know if it is realistic at this point," Roey said yesterday. "We plan to move ahead and ask the board for approval on Thursday."

Roey's plan calls for 10 additional classrooms, an overall expansion to the building by 60,000 square feet, an increase of 5,000 feet compared with a previous plan. The plan also calls for most hallways in the school to be expanded to at least 10 feet wide. The school's cafeteria would grow by 523 square feet from its current size of 9,195 square feet.

The proposed plan's $57 million price tag is $3 million more than a plan Roey presented to the board in February. The school board has requested $27 million for the project in the 2009 capital budget. Any increases would be addressed in future budgets.

john-john.williams@baltsun .com

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