- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s will need three new elementary schools and a new high school within the next decade to address an influx of new students to the public school system, school officials said Wednesday.
Brad Clements, chief operating officer for the public schools, said that during the last several years state and local governments have asked the St. Mary’s schools to delay plans for several school construction projects, citing budgetary constraints.
Clements said that projections for new students during the next decade continue to climb, and that some of the new schools need to be built sooner than currently planned to address the overcrowding that will occur.
Patuxent River Naval Air Station could stand to gain, or lose, some of its programs and personnel depending on if the school system is deemed adequate to serve military families, Clements said.
Evergreen Elementary School, which opened three years ago, is on track to continue to be the most overcrowded school, at least until the next new elementary school situated on the Hayden farm property opens in August 2015.
School budget plans adopted this week now call for moving up funding for two more elementary schools and a high school.
Ideally, the elementary schools would open in 2019 and 2021. The new high school would open in 2022. The actual timetable will depend on the availability of state and county funding.
Each elementary school would require more than $13 million in local funding. The 1,200-capacity high school would require $33 million from the county commissioners. School officials have said the high school ideally would be located in the Hollywood or California area.
Evergreen is projected to have as many as 825 students next year; it was built for 646. Many of those extra students will be in mobile classrooms next year, and the school’s budget for next year includes adding two new classroom teachers and a new assistant principal to help manage the bulging population at the school.
School board member Marilyn Crosby said that county commissioners have shown recent interest in class sizes.
“If they’re interested, then we need some money to go with them” to address the growing average number of students in classes, Crosby said.
Other projections show Park Hall Elementary School to be over capacity by 140 student next year, Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary over by 121 students and Leonardtown Elementary over by 115 students. Even once existing classroom trailers’ capacities are added in, those schools and several others are still considered over capacity.
Only three elementary schools — Green Holly, Oakville and Piney Point — are projected to be within capacity next year when not counting trailers.
A planned early childhood center next to Evergreen was pushed out several years to 2019 and an expansion to Dent Elementary School has been moved out of the six-year school construction plan, Clements said.
With several changes made to the capital improvements program, the school board’s request to the county now totals $28 million more during the next six years, or $105 million.
Clements said the changes reflect the capacity needs of the school system based on the spring enrollment projections. The changes also address the coming reduction from 70 percent to 65 percent of state funding for school construction in St. Mary’s.
School board chair Sal Raspa said there is “a very challengeable time ahead of us.”