Artist rendering of proposed New Northwest Area Elementary School. (Photo by Linda Dorsey Walker)
Northwest Baltimore County residents can anticipate the opening of a new 700 seat elementary school in less than one year; however, few residents living within a five minute drive from the new site realize the school is coming, its location or whether or not their child is likely to be impacted.
For hundreds of County residents the New Northwest Area Elementary School, located at 9455 Lyons Mill Road in Owings Mills, will mean transfer of their child to the new site by August 2015.
Homeowner associations (HOA’s) located within the area immediately surrounding the new school, are disproportionately impacted because the new school may determine the future value of their homes because of new bus and foot traffic.
For many homeowners the impact runs deeper because their children who presently attend one of nation’s top “Blue Ribbon” schools, Woodholme Elementary School, will not continue there next year.
Groundbreaking for the $7.2 million 700 seat New Northwest Area Elementary School took place on Aug. 26. An additional elementary school for the area has long been overdue since both New Town Elementary and Woodholme Elementary opened as over-crowded schools in 2001 and 2005.
School officials say the State’s new school construction process does not allow them to consider the plans of developers who presently hold options to build new housing starts on nearby parcels of land.
Within days of this groundbreaking, construction began on hundreds of new townhomes located on the same Ballard Farm land as the new school.
BCPS organizers of the Northwest Area Boundary Study Committee, which met for the first time, Sept. 17, excluded all but one of the several HOA’s, (Winterset), directly impacted by the plan, stating they were not aware of any others.
Instead, principals from schools located miles from the new school were requested to identify parents from their schools to be members. Asked whether Dr. Dallas might consider a change to include the HOA’s closest to the new building site, BCPS officials responded, “It is highly unlikely.”
The Lyonswood and Whitehurst Home Owners Associations continue to be excluded despite having their absence pointed out to the BCPS planners, and despite the inconvenience of being disturbed by school construction. Instead, after the Boundary Committee has met five times to develop its plan, the directly impacted HOA’s will be given the exact same opportunity as all members of the public for comment on Nov. 19.
The Northwest Area Boundary Study Committee began the task of recommending boundaries for the new school at meeting on September 16. (Image courtesy Baltimore County Government)
Northwest area HOA’s want a new middle school closer to their homes, but those concerns appear to not have found a receptive ear.
While Baltimore County plans to spend $1.1 billion over the near few years to add an additional 11,000 seats to the total for Baltimore County, according to Michelle Prumo, chief of staff for Dr. Dallas Dance, there is no need for an additional Middle School in the Owings Mills / Randallstown area, where no new middle school has been constructed for decades.
“A new elementary school can be justified, however, Baltimore County has no plans to build a new middle school in the New Town area of Owings Mills because the current middle schools are operating under-capacity. There are presently 5800 BCPS middle schools seats available in that area of northwest Baltimore County where only 5100 student are enrolled”, said Prumo.
However, each year dozens of area parents withdraw their students from BCPS rather than allow them to attend the assigned middle school, located approximately 4 miles away from New Town, because of concerns over quality of education, student safety, and the inability of bussed children to stay for afterschool activities.
Prumo stated ”We are indeed aware that some parents in that area have the means and desire to send their students to private schools rather than the assigned public middle school, and do so because that is their choice.”
Members of the public are invited to be observers only at future Boundary Committee meetings at New Town High School at 7 p.m., Oct. 1, 15 and 29; Nov. 12 and Dec. 10.