The stage has been set.
The hearing was called on advice from Baltimore County Public Schools system counsel, following preliminary approval for Mays Chapel Park as the site for a new 700-seat elementary school.
Based on attendance at a Board of Education meeting held a week, Greater Timonium Community Council president Eric Rockel estimates as many at 175 people may attend the hearing, hoping for a chance to speak.
“It could be a long night,” he told Patch Monday afternoon.
Patch will be covering the meeting live, as-it-happens, via our Cover It Live blogging tool. If you can’t make it to Loch Raven, follow along as we update sentiments from speakers throughout the night.
Action on the school will be taken at a board meeting Tuesday night.
“It does seem like a done deal, but it’s very unfortunate that the school board has not chosen to have more of a dialogue with the community,” Rockel said, addressing community leaders at a Greater Timonium Community Council meeting last week. “Everything that has so far has been little dribs and drabs from the school board, nothing concrete—no meetings to engage the community.”
That is until this evening.
Advocates for the school are clear on their rationale. Overcrowding has been a crippling issue, particularly along the York Road corridor in the West Towson area. West Towson Elementary School opened in 2010, but officials there are already making plans to annex some students to the Ridge Ruxton School's building due to overcrowding.
Anti-school advocates worry the school will bring congestion to the quiet Mays Chapel, while eliminating the open space.
Rockel, however, questions where students will be drawn from to fill the 700-seat elementary school. He insists that there are not enough students in the immediate area to fill school at the BCPS-owned, pre-approved site.
“That’s something the school board doesn’t want to talk about because they know it’s so emotionally charged,” Rockel said. “As long as it’s just Mays Chapel they figured they can isolate the angst and it’ll be no big deal. But suddenly Springlake and Dulaney Springs and other neighborhoods start realizing that their children are going to be bused to Mays Chapel, that brings up a different issue.”
“If they think that the school is going to cure the over-capacity problems over in West Towson, they’ve got another thing coming.”
Charles Herndon, a school system spokesman, said the existing policy on boundary changes when constructing a new school has proved successful in the past. (See attached PDF.)
Herndon affirmed that, if the school is approved, first boundary studies are conducted by committee, followed by a recommendation to the board, which will include several options.
He said a forum, or forums, will be held to address concerns and vet opinions of neighborhoods who do and do not want to participate in redrawing boundary lines.
Are you going to tonight’s hearing? Where do you stand on the issue? Tell us in the comments section below.