The Baltimore County Public Schools Board of Education heard testimony Monday evening regarding a proposal to build a 700-seat elementary school at Mays Chapel Park to alleviate severe overcrowding in schools along the York Road corridor.
Sound familiar? It should.
Monday’s hearing at Loch Raven High School was the second meeting held to vet public opinion concerning construction of a new school in Timonium at the site of what is currently Mays Chapel Park.
The site was approved by the Baltimore County Board of Education last year. The state board of education, however, sent the process back for a second hearing for violating state law pertaining to legal notice requirements for the March 19, 2012 site selection hearing.
“Our battle cry is it’s not a done deal,” said Edward Speno, a Mays Chapel North resident against building the school in his “backyard.”
Twenty-eight of about 35 speakers opposed the site for the school, once again citing traffic, environmental, economic and other issues that have become all too familiar to board president Lawrence Schmidt.
“A lot of the objections that we heard tonight we have heard before,” Schmidt said following the hearing. “There seem to be more people talking about bussing [issues] tonight. … But obviously the loss of the park and the other issues, it was a lot of the same type of issues.”
Opponents urged the board to reconsider the Dulaney Springs site, as well as the possibility of building a school next to Cockeysville Middle School. Others suggested building additions to schools that are currently overcrowded.
Mays Chapel Park sits behind what is largely considered a senior living community. The majority of individuals against the project say they there aren’t enough children living in the area to justify building a school at the park.
Much of what was said during the hearing in opposition to the school has become old hat. So can advocates against the current proposal expect a different result come Feb. 5?
“I can’t answer that,” Schmidt said. “It’s going to be in the individual mind of every board member when we vote on this on Feb. 5 based on the information that we have and any new information that we have.
“As far as I’m concerned this is a new process,” he continued.
Two new members, a third if you count the board’s student representative, have joined since last March.
Superintendent Dallas Dance sits on the board as secretary treasurer with newest member Chuck McDaniel, appointed July 1. The board unanimously approved the site in March 2012.
Kara Calder, executive director of planning and support operations for BCPS, informed the board that “thoughtful considerations” have been made in the planning of the new school to address opponents’ primary concerns—namely the loss of open, recreational space.
Calder said the school site plans would take into account “continuous recreational use” noting that there would be a walking path integrated into the final design.
Dr. George Lowe, medical director of Lutherville Personal Physicians, gave an impassioned speech about the would-be detriment caused a loss of open park land for senior citizens.
“I see young mothers with strollers. I see children with bikes and kites. I see dog walkers, seniors, college students playing lacrosse—all have benefited from the healthful activities afforded by the park and the open space,” Lowe began.
“The seniors in this community ... will lose access to this park, which is a vital prescription to get outdoors,” he continued. There are no other safe, outdoor, nearby places … to get exercise.”
So far, the board has been mum about specifically what kind of access seniors would have to the school grounds during school hours.
“No representative … has ever met with members of our community despite numerous requests,” Angelo DelNegro, co-chair of Save Mays Chapel Park, one of the community groups actively fighting against the school being built in Mays Chapel.
DelNegro went out to point out a number of inconsistencies in the board’s planning, namely false information presented to the board less than 24 hours prior to their approval of the site.
On March 19, chief operations officer Michael Sines told the board to rule out Dulaney Springs as an alternate site for the school because of the added costs associated with installing utilities that weren’t readily available at the site.
He would directly contradict himself the next evening telling the board that there were in fact utilities at the Dulaney Springs site.
Tensions were high at the hearing at Loch Raven High School. Several speakers who testified in favor of the school were interrupted or jeered. Several opponents had to be warned multiple times not to speak out of turn.
The board is scheduled to vote on the matter on Feb. 5.
- Board of Ed to Discuss Mays Chapel School Update
- School Officials Present Mays Chapel School Site Plan
- LETTER: School Board Vote Invalid For New Mays Chapel School Site
- State Board of Ed Strikes Down Mays Chapel School Site Approval
- EVENT: It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings (blog)
- Public Input Meeting Over New School Facility Scheduled for December
- BLOG: Mays Chapel North Deserves Better (blog)
- VIDEO: Board Approves Mays Chapel Site for New School
- Save Mays Chapel Park Group Outlines Position Against New School
- Timonium Community Leader Continues Fight for Mays Chapel Park
- LIVE BLOG: Advocates Testify For and Against Mays Chapel Elementary
- Timonium Residents Oppose Mays Chapel Option for New Elementary School