Creating more capacity in the central area

By S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent

The need for more elementary school seats in the central area has been an ongoing challenge for Baltimore County Public Schools. We appreciate how engaged the community has been in working with us to find solutions. This is really a new process for us – opening up and inviting the public to be a part of identifying relief strategies. We know that by working together we will find better and more lasting answers.

Here’s a quick review of what has already taken place: In 2010, to help ease overcrowding, the new 450-seat West Towson Elementary School opened. This year, we completed a 200-seat addition to Stoneleigh Elementary and a 340-seat addition to Hampton Elementary, and we broke ground for a 700-seat school to be built in the Mays Chapel area. We are also in the process of adding 200 seats to Sparks Elementary and identifying a location inside the beltway for 500 additional seats. In total, we will have added 2,390 elementary seats in the central area over the course of five to six years.

We have a tremendous opportunity at this time to not only make changes but to make the right changes. Our funding authorities have committed funds to help us manage growth. We have the time to balance enrollment among all schools to support student success and strong community schools. And we are engaged in a 10-year capital planning process to ensure modern facilities for the future.

Community meetings held May 16, 2013, and again on June 12, 2013, at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, focused on identifying where we might add the proposed 500 new elementary seats. The following sites were recommended at the May meeting for review: the land behind Timonium Elementary, the Greenwood campus of BCPS, Carver Center, YMCA, Bykota Senior Center, Baltimore County Detention Center, the fire station on York Road, Towson Catholic, Rodgers Forge Elementary and Overlook Park.

At the June 12 meeting, BCPS staff reviewed the current ownership, location and size of the proposed sites; explained why the Timonium Elementary and Greenwood sites are not feasible; and architects described some of the challenges of building an elementary school at Carver Center, Bykota, and Rodgers Forge. The point of their presentation was to show some of the process we go through when vetting properties. We will go through this process with all of the sites identified by the community and sites identified with the assistance of a Realtor we have engaged.

We also spent time at the meeting discussing comprehensive approaches to shifting school boundaries and the timelines for our work to develop additional seats.

We have engaged a consulting firm to begin working in September with the community and staff to review school boundaries – not only for the opening of the new elementary school at Mays Chapel but also for the anticipated additional 500 seats – being sensitive to the need to respect neighborhood cohesion, align with feeder patterns, and maximize walkability. In November, we will invite the community to join with us again to hear and respond to proposals to add 500 seats to the central area.

In the meantime, please check the What’s Happening section of the BCPS Web site (www.bcps.org) for updates, and please remain involved in the process. Only with you can we achieve our shared goal of effective 21st century learning environments for all students.

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5 thoughts on “Creating more capacity in the central area

  1. The article does not mention anything about the concerns raised by all parents present at the June 12th 2013 meeting about the effects of redistricting and possibility of families, neighborhoods being shifted into a lower grade schools.There were also several concerns raised about the effects of such boundary shifts affecting real estate values. Almost all parents voiced their concern about this. Families have bought into specific neighborhoods based on the school districts; redistricting just based on numbers without any relevance to the school performance and grading makes no sense and will not be acceptable to the community at large. I think this was a clear message that central district’s community voiced during the meeting.

  2. Dr. Dance,
    I was at the meeting last night and heard nothing at all concerning a comprehensive discussion about shifting borders. Instead, I heard a lot of non-specific placations. Additionally, not one person on the panel could effectively answer why the Stoneleigh school neighborhoods would need to be redistricted as by the County’s own numbers the school would not be overcrowded in 2015. I know those of us who feel threatened by the prospect of being redistricted out of the Stoneleigh school district would welcome your response to that question. If you could also explain why redistricting in our Southwest area is being done prior to the building of the proposed new school. While I understand the need to address the “here and now” it seems premature to redistrict now when it may need to be done again in the next 5-6 years.

    Regards,

    Jenn Yelton-Dobson

  3. While I don’t oppose the idea of a new elementary school being built on the site of the current Bykota Center, I have two problems with your concept:

    * Your preliminary concept drawing shows the elimination of the neighborhood playground at the corner of Highland Avenue and alley way for parking lots. The West Towson Neighborhood assn. and GTCCA will vigorously oppose this. Your parking plan needs to think “outside the box” so as not to eliminate a neighborhood asset / green space for parking. You likely will need to build a two story parking deck adjacent to the school on the current parking lot.
    You shouldn’t have an elementary school without a playground that you took for parking purposes. And you don’t take away a kid’s playground from a neighborhood who paid for it and loves it.

    Moving Bykota to the Carver High site seems like another bad compromise in cutting athletic field space and campus space.

  4. I was hoping you could clarify a few things from this post and the June 12 presentation.

    The county executive’s 2014 budget message indicated that – is addition to the new Mays Chapel Elementary and the additions to Stoneleigh, Hampton and Sparks elementary schools – there would be at least 700 new seats in the York Road corridor.

    The material presented at the June 12 community meeting and in this post talk about a school with approximately 500 new seats.

    Is 500 new seats the target for the new school? Is that now the total number of new seats being sought for the York Road corridor?

    At the June 12 meeting, Mr. Sines said that the proposal for building a new school on the grounds of Rogers Forge was driven by the thought that that would be the quickest way to acquire new seats. With the consideration now of sites on land not owned by the Board or the county, and the engagement of a realtor, is the thought now that it would be okay to wait the additional 6 months – 2 years acquiring a new site would add to the timeline for realizing those new seats?

    Is it correct that redistricting for the new school at Mays Chapel and the new Towson-area school will be done together? How do you anticipate that working if the review of boundaries begins in September but the proposals for site selection of the Towson area school won’t be presented until November?

    Thanks.

  5. Does the Board of Education plan on following Rule 1280 that outlines the process for Boundary Changes? How will periodical updates on the Boundary Study Committee’s progress be made available to the public? According to Rule 1280, input from the affected communities is supposed to be obtained in public forums, prior to developing “proposed boundary option(s)”, incorporating the community’s input. The Rule also states that “All meetings of the Boundary Study Committee (BSC) will be publicly advertised and open to the public.” Will the BSC hold public forums prior to November, when the proposals are presented? It would be great to get confirmation that Rule 1280 is still in effect and that no steps will be skipped in the process. Thank you.

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