Stoneleigh Elementary parents who want county government to start moving on a long-promised expansion of the overcrowded school should lobby the Planning Board before next Thursday to seek funding for initial planning for an addition, a state delegate said Wednesday night.
At a packed meeting in the school's cafeteria, Del. Stephen W. Lafferty, a Stoneleigh resident, urged his neighbors to make their demands known to the county Planning Board before it votes next Thursday on its capital budget recommendations to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
"It looks like money is available," Lafferty, a District 42 Democrat, told nearly 300 parents at the meeting on ways to ease overcrowding at the school.
The Planning Board is scheduled to vote next week on what capital projects it recommends Kamenetz fund in the budget year that begins July 1. Lafferty said the board is likely to recommend Kamenetz budget up to $10 million for York Road corridor schools facing overcrowding.
“I think the county executive recognizes the significance of the overcrowding," Lafferty said. "There is a financial mechanism now with the Planning Board recommendation that I would think the county executive would be supportive.”
But, Lafferty said, parents must make their presence felt at the Planning Board's March 3 meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. in room 104 of the Jefferson Building at 105 W. Chesapeake Ave.
If the board approves the money and Kamenetz agrees to include it in his fiscal year 2012 budget, parents then must lobby to get $2 million of it set aside next year specifically to fund the design and planning for a Stoneleigh Elementary addition and renovation.
The total cost of the expasion project is expected to be about $18 million, Lafferty said.
Laffertys hopes to put a Stoneleigh addition back to the top of the list of priorities.
The school is built to accommodate 499 students. Its total enrollment is 637.
Hundreds of parents crowded into the school cafeteria to question school and county officials on what they are doing to make the 81-year-old building more accommodating to students.
Stoneleigh Principal Christine Warner said one additional "learning cottage" would be added to the existing four portable classroom trailers at the school to reduce overcrowding next year.
Many parents have expressed concerns that the overcrowding jeopardizes safety at the school in case of a fire. But Warner said the school has met all of the fire marshal's requirements for a safe building.
County Councilman David Marks, R-District 5, who also attended the meeting, said he supported plans to get the planning money in the budget.
Marks also suggested school officials examine leasing vacant space from area Catholic schools as a way to provide long-term solutions to alleviate overcrowding.
Warner encouraged parents to get involved in a new advocacy group, Stoneleigh United, to push for the school addition.
Stoneleigh United was formed by parents worried county and school officials were not making Stoneleigh overcrowding a priority. An addition at the school had been one of the county's top priorities, but it was suddenly dropped to one of its least urgent projects without explanation last year.
"It was an important meeting to make sure all of our parents were educated and are ready to take action," said Jennifer Lew, a Stoneleigh United member. "We just need to get our people there to the Planning Board and advocate because we have to find out this money will be used for our school or other projects. ... We'll definitely have a presence at that meeting."