Thursday, June 21, 2012

Capacity In the West

When I ended my previous post I said that perhaps it was time to close another School in the future. Yes that was a lead for a future post and yes it's time that in the Western part of Howard County it's time to close not one not two but three Schools in the coming years. The County over projected the amount if Schools needed in the West thinking that new development will yield the same large numbers that urbanized areas in the County will and have. As a result these projections have caused the County to overbuild some Schools and or build costly additions when all that was needed would have been portable classrooms for a few years until populations had leveled off. 
In addition to the rural west Columbia's River Hill Village has been yielding smaller numbers of School aged Children for quite some time. River Hill was built at a very fast pace which doesn't allow for good cycles of School Districts. For example in the Northfield School District the rate of homes built is staggered with homes old, new, and everything in between. This allows for some Neighborhoods not to have very many School Children and others to have a boom in the number of School Children while the School population doesn't drastically change, only the Neighborhoods in which they come from do. The Gray Rock Farms Neighborhood is yielding fewer while the Dunloggin Neighborhood is yielding more. In River Hill all the Homes were built within 10 years of each other so a few years ago all the Neighborhoods were yielding huge numbers of children while now just a moderate number and in a couple of years very few. This means that all these new and expanded Schools that serve River Hill will be grossly under capacity.
So what should have happened? I think enrollment trends should have been studied closer to see whether or not these large enrollment numbers were here to stay. New housing in the rural west has dropped off considerably as those relocating to Howard County prefer the more urbanized lifestyle that Columbia, Ellicott City, and Elkridge provide. In addition the west has gotten too expensive in this day and age and with Retail being so far away and gas being so expensive it would be a matter of time before home builders in Howard County began looking elsewhere and began building higher density homes outside of the rural west which is exactly what has happened. 

With all this knowledge it seems silly that the County felt the need to build not one but two new Schools with capacities of almost 800 Students each. I'm talking about Dayton Oaks and the Bushy Park of course. The net gain brought on by these two schools is a staggering 1176 Students as the old Bushy Park had a Capacity of 440. Dayton Oaks never should have been built, there I said it. Dayton Oaks opened in 2006 with barely 500 students leaving some classrooms empty as enrollment there has continued to decline. The two Schools its District was formed with (Clarksville and Tridelphia Ridge) although crowded at the time, would have leveled off in a couple of years giving each School optimal enrollment ratios. Also when Dayton Oaks opened why were Clarksville and Tridelphia Ridge given additions of 65- 70 seats each? Usually when a new School is built, existing Schools don't need additions because the need for them is wiped out once the new School opens. Clarksville even if its capacity was left at 565 instead of 634 would have probably been able to make do with its old district and then some had Dayton Oaks never happened. Clarksville still could have been available to assist Fulton this year when it was decided that it would relieve Hammond and Gorman Crossing in the southeast. 
  Not only was Dayton Oaks built but Bushy Park was replaced with a new building that was a twin of Dayton Oaks. Even when the new Bushy Park was in its planning stages there were some red flags that enrollment couldn't support a new School that large such as Kindergarten classes being smaller and enrollment at Lisbon shrinking. If these red flags were taking seriously perhaps Dayton Oaks (assuming it was built) could have provided short term relief to Bushy Park as could Lisbon considering that its capacity was upped from 434 to 553. The new Bushy Park opened in 2007 with a building close to twice its size yet there was no redistricting into the School. In fact its district has remained the same since Tridelphia Ridge opened in 1998. I guess it was assumed that Bushy Park despite its smaller Kindergarten classes and the drop of new building would continue to yield high numbers and continue to increase. Bushy Park has never come close to its capacity of 788 and just like Dayton Oaks it won't come close.

Given that both Dayton Oaks and Bushy Park are brand new they can't close despite every indication that building them was a mistake. However that doesn't make the fact that Western Howard County as a whole is grossly under populated when compared to the amount of seats in the region and that no amount of redistricting can make it otherwise unless Schools are closed. Obviously a big cause of this excess space; the big new Schools can't be closed but I can think of two older Schools that can be retired and as a result both Bushy Park and Dayton Oaks will absorb the population of one School each which will greatly reduce the excess space. 
 First there's West Friendship, opened in 1925 this is easily Howard County's oldest functioning School across the board. When Dayton Oaks opened in 2006 West Friendship's District was reduced with a big chunk now attending Tridelphia Ridge. As the past six years wore on, enrollment at West Friendship has been on a continuous decline with no end in sight. Bushy Park is set to dip below 600 next year and in a few years below 500 as well and with Bushy Park's capacity at 788 and West Friendship's enrollment barely 200 Bushy Park can absorb West Friendship easily bringing enrollment there at an acceptable level. West Friendship will close and can be used as a holding School for Schools undergoing large renovations (modernizations) and eventually as a satellite campus for Manor Woods. West Friendship can house grades 4 and 5 of the Manor Woods district as the Turf Valley Development will cause Manor Woods to outgrow its current campus.   
 The other Elementary School that's old and under populated is Clarksville. Clarksville opened in its current location in 1964 and whenever a new Elementary School has opened in that area Clarksville has had to redraw its population from somewhere else. Due to the sheer numbers of Schools that have opened in the west, Clarksville has run out of Neighborhoods to draw fom. It's not Clarksville's fault, it's just that too many Schools were buit in this region. In the coming years Clarksvile is projected to drop well below 300 Students despite a capacity of 634. Just like West Friendship, neighboring Schools don't have the population to the population redistrict into Clarksville. In order to keep newer Schools in the west open such as Dayton Oaks, Tridelphia Ridge, Pointers Run, and Bushy Park open Clarksville have to close. All of Clarksville will be absorbed by Dayton Oaks which is also slated to be less than half full. Dayton Oaks not only can support all of Clarksville but can it can still support the 2012 redistricting of the Highland area from Fulton. 
  In addition to Dayton Oaks allowing for Fulton to expand its district to the east, Pointers Run which is also slated to drop considerably will assist Fulton by redistricting large amounts of students there this coming School year. As part of my long standing commitment to modernizing older Schools I have introduced holding Schools as an option for Schools that require a large amount of work if not a total teardow. Faulkner Ridge will be one of the Schools which will leave the offices there homeless. I have introduced the idea of having Pointers Run fill that need by having a wing of the School walled off and dedicated to those offices. In order to reduce the capcacity of Pointers Run down to 556 from 776, I have redistricted the Clarksville Hunt Neighborhood into Clemens Crossing instead of Pointers Run. 
  In a similar move I have introduced that idea to Tridelphia Ridge which will wall off three classrooms to used as the "Benson Branch Community Center" which will complement the proposed Park of the same name across the street. This will bring the capacity of Tridelphia Ridge down to 478, from 544  its original capacity which is closer to current enrollment.   
 In addition to the 2 Elementary Schools I have slated for closure, I have included a Middle School as well. Its date will be pushed to 2015 instead of right away. The Middle School, although it was once very crowded is Clarksville Middle. Just like the Elementary Schools on its district the population will drop to just over 300 in the coming years. With a Capacity of 662 and having the oldest building when compared to other Middle Schools nearby, Clarksville is the best option. This time instead of one School absorbing the whole population, it will be divided into two. The Phesant Ridge area of River Hill will go to Folly Quarter as well as the Highland currently attending Lime Kiln. The area of Folly Quarter that goes to Glenelg will be redistricted to Glenwood. The Pointers Run area of River Hill will go to Lime Klin where space has opened due to the Highland area now going to Folly Quarter. Clarksville Middle will still function as a holding School the first School it would is Glenwood whose building has aged is due for a Modernization. 
 Although High Schools in the West will be well under capacity, no High Schools need to close.  There does need to be some redistricting in order to relieve crowding and have a viable population return to Schools that need more Students. The western edges of both Reservoir and Atholton will be redistricted to River Hill where enrollment is on the decline. There has been talk of moving the JROTC program out of Howard High due to crowding and the fact that Oakland Mills supports that program as well. With Marriotts Ridge being less populated than projected there has been talk of moving Howard's program there. I support that proposition as it will balance out enrollment across the board. This move will not however delete the need for a 13th High School in Elkridge.

As enrollment trends evolve to favor densely populated urbanized parts of Howard County, enrollment in the west was expected to drop off especially when considering that Schools were overbuilt when simply redistricting and adding portables would have taken care of the problem short term. Since this wasn't the case in order for Schools to function properly, some Schools will have to close to balance out enrollment and capacity.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Bygone Schools of the Past

Given that crowding has been effecting Howard County Schools for decades on end it's hard to believe that Howard County has former Schools that have closed. No matter how hard it may be to believe it's true and I've done the research to prove it. Now I know what you're thinking; Wilde Lake High and Bushy Park Elementary come to mind although their old buildings have closed they were replaced by new buildings and that says nothing about enrollment declines in fact that shows that enrollment is projected to increase at the time these replacement Schools were built. This begs the question; Where are these bygone Schools of the past?
Not unlike every Jurisdiction in the Country Howard County used to have segregated Schools. Brown vs. Board of Education changed this and quite a few Schools were forced to close as a result. Some very small Schools whose opening date I'm not sure of closed as a result. There used to a Highland Elementary, a Dayton Elementary (Not today's Dayton Oaks) and a Cooksville Elementary. All of these Schools were hardly bigger than a one room School house and the lie that was "separate but equal" could not have been more true. All of these Schools closed in 1964 when the current Clarksville Elementary opened as an integrated School except for Cookesville which was absorbed by West Friendship. Yes the current Clarksville Elementary isn't the first that was located roughly where the Ten Oaks Ballroom and Fire Station now stands. There was also an Elkridge Colored School that closed but it was absorbed by the White Elkridge Elementary or the new Waterloo Elementary rather than Clarksville. 
Perhaps the only other segregated Black Elementary School of that era was Fells Lane Elementary. That school opened in 1955 and only operated as a School for 10 years and closed in 1965 as segregated Schools had to be discontinued as part of the Civil Rights Act. Today Fells Lane Elementary has been functioning as the Rogers Carter Community Center but as part of the Hilltop and Ellicott Terrace redevelopment plan the old School will be torn down and a new Community Center whose floor plan mirrors that of a Community Center and not a School. Fells Lane was probably the best funded School that was blacks only which doesn't say much.
There used to be a Scaggsville Elementary (not pictured) and it functioned as a School until 1971 when Hammond Elementary and Middle opened. East of Route 29 where Hammond opened it was projected to high growth and Scaggsville Elementary located west of Route 29 was not projected to have growth surrounding the School. Hammond was built to house its own future growth and the population of Scaggsville Elementary. As a result, Scaggsville closed when Hammond opened. Today Scaggsville exists as the Southern Howard County Police Station located behind the ill fated Cherry Tree Shopping Center. The Community of Scaggsville exists east of Route 29 but the old Elementary School is just west of Route 29 in what today is thought of as Fulton.  
 In 1973 when Laurel Woods (pictured) opened, the small obsolete Savage Elementary closed.15 years later Bollman Bridge opened. The whole story can be found on this blog.  
  In 1976 Ellicott City Elementary closed. Before Schools were integrated Ellicott City Elementary was a whites only School. It was located on College Avenue overlooking Historic Ellicott City. This was a very old School predating the original Ellicott Mills Middle that opened in 1939. This was once housed Ellicott City High School as well as the Elementary School. In 1939 Ellicott City High moved to Montgomery Road until 1952 when Howard opened. Ellcott City then became solely a Junior High School. It was renamed Ellicott Mills Middle in 1987 and was rebuilt on the same site in 2001. Ellicott City Elementary closed when Worthington opened in 1976. The old Ellicott City Elementary burned down in the 1980s after being vacated for several years. Although the Ellicott City Elementary district was sent to Worthington (pictured above) when it opened, Veterans now holds what was once the old Ellicott City District and has since its 2007 opening. 
  The late 1960s through the 1970s saw huge growth in the number of School aged Children in Howard County due largely to the onset of Columbia. The 1980s however saw population loss in those high growth areas as those homes began to house empty nesters. In some parts of Columbia, those same Neighborhoods are just now beginning to yield School aged children again.
In 1980 it became clear that in West Columbia and Ellicott City, each Community had to close an Elementary School. This was a debate that sparked during the first years of the 1980s as nobody wanted their School to close. In west Columbia it was a toss up between Longfellow and Faulkner Ridge Elementary. Longfellow had the smaller enrollment and district as well as the worst floor plan in West Columbia but you know the old saying; location location location right? In this case it meant that Faulkner Ridge closed in 1983. Faulkner Ridge not only housed its name sake Neighborhood but also housed Harpers Forest Apartments, Deering Woods Condos, and Hawthorn. Deering Woods went to Longfellow as well Beaver Brook (from Bryant Woods), Capsitrano Villas, Fenland Fields Apartments and Hobbits Glen (from Swansfield) Harpers Forest went to Swansfield, Hawthron went to Bryant Woods, and the Neighborhood of Faulkner Ridge went to Running Brook. Other than Faulkner Ridge being redistricted to Bryant Woods in 2003 these Districts haven't changed since 1983 when Faulkner Ridge closed.
 The other casualty of 1983 was Rockland Elementary. St. Johns Lane also had very low enrollment but given its central location and the building being in better shape, it was Rockland that closed. The entire Rockland District was absorbed by St. Johns Lane. Pretty quickly it became apparent that this was a mistake as St. Johns Lane became very crowded within a few short years which would have not been so dramatic if Rockland was still open. In fact there was talk of reopening Rockland until Waverly opened in 1990 providing relief for St, Johns Lane. Waverly wasn't enough and in 1997 the Community of Rockalnd got a new School to call is own; Holliefield Station (pictured below.)
 Holliefield Station's District is almost identical to that of the old Rockland Elementary although it contains a population about 3 times the size. There isn't a single School in Ellicott City in danger of closing now as these once low enrollment areas have had massive population growth between now and the time Rockland closed.
 Not surprisingly with two Elementary Schools having closed in 1983 there was talk of closing a Middle School in 1984. On the chopping block were Wilde Lake Middle, Dunloggin, Ellicott City Middle, Patapsco, and Waterloo Middle. Waterloo Middle was one of the oldest Schools in question and had had a fire. Waterloo Middle was not well funded having not had any real real renovations since its opening in 1955. The fire should have made that those renovations a reality but the School Board had a reason not to do so and as a result the fire damaged section was sealed off and portables were used. There was talk of building a new Middle School as a replacement on land the School Board owned on Mayfeild Avenue but projections didn't have the need for it until 1995. Waterloo Middle closed in 1984 and was absorbed by Ellicott City Middle which was grossly underpopulated. Ellicott City Middle had a better location than Waterloo Middle and wasn't damaged by a fire.
Waterloo Middle was used as a School for the rest of its life however, first in 1985 Waterloo Elementary (2 pictures up) used as its building underwent a Modernization. Then from 1986-1988 while the "new Southeastern Elementary" was being built, part of Guilford used Waterloo Middle, the Neighborhoods of Huntington and Savage went there until the "new Southeastern Elementarily" which is now Bollman Bridge opened in 1988. Throughout the life of Waterloo Middle it was suggested that its site was better suited for an Elementary School and the area was in need of one. In 1988 Waterloo Middle was torn down and two years later in 1990, Deep Run Elementary (pictured above) opened on the site of Waterloo Middle. The Waterloo Middle replacement opened the following year in 1991 on Mayfield Avenue appropriately named Mayfield Woods Middle.  
 Given that Howard County Schools have seen growth pretty much every year since Waterloo Middle closed, no other School has done so without a replacement of the same name opening at the same time such as Elkridge (pictured above) and Bushy Park in 1992 and 2007 respectively. Although projections show a net incarease for the County as a whole, the western region shows a drastic decline for the coming years. Could it be time for an additional School to close? Stay tuned to find out.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Elkridge High: Returning After Seven Decades?

Lately I have been researching the history of Howard County's School Buildings and blogging has gone on the back burner. It never occurred to me until last night that my research findings could in fact translate into some interesting blog posts. So this and future posts will have a lot to do with School Buildings in Howard County and how things used to be and what I predict will happen in the future. As the title suggests this post will focus on Elkridge High School, what became of it, and how High Schools have evolved since its closure.
 The year was 1950 and Howard County was very rural consisting of a few small towns with some stand alone Elementary Schools a few with Junior High Schools and an even smaller number with Senior Highs. Schools were segregated at the time and the only High School that Blacks could go to was Harriet Tubman High. White High Schools were Lisbon High, Ellicott City High, Savage High, Clarksville High, and Elkridge High. A lot of these Schools had different course offerings. With population growth on the horizon the School Board realized the need for a large centralized High School with a streamlined course offering. The site used for the land was and is on Old Annapolis Road just west of Waterloo Road.The School named "Howard County High School" (eventually shortened to Howard High) and still exists today.
Site of the Old Clarksville High
 Howard wasn't meant to be an additional High School quite the contrary it involved closing almost all of the existing High Schools except for Lisbon due to its western location and Harriett Tubman because Howard High would be Whites Only. So that means Elkridge, Savage, Clarksville, and Ellicott City High Schools had closed in 1952 upon the opening of Howard. The only known building survivor of the these 1952 shutdowns was Elkridge High. The Elkridge High Building then became home to Elkridge Elementary for 40 years after the High School shut down until 1992 when Elkridge Elementary was replaced by a new Building at a larger site. 
Perhaps discontinuing these old High Schools could have been seen as short sighted because almost immediately after the opening of Howard High, the need for new High Schools grew. I would assume that the closed Schools were dated and that modernizing them to be adequate would have cost more than building new Schools. Lisbon High, one of two surviving "Pre Howard High Schools" was slated to be replaced by a Junior Senior High. Glenelg Junior Senior High opened in 1957. During its first ten years Glenelg operated as Junior High and High School until 1967 when Glenwood Middle opened and Glenelg became solely a High School. 
Mount Hebron had a similar history when it opened in 1965 as a Junior Senior High until 1969 when Patapsco opened thus allowing Mount Hebron to become solely a High School.
Remember Harriett Tubman High? In 1964 Howard County was to become integrated and all Schools were to accept both blacks and whites. Needless to say the "separate but equal" mentality was flawed because all of the blacks only Schools closed the same year integration took place. On the High School level Harriett Tubman couldn't close yet because it had to be replaced.
The new School was located on land next to the original Harriett Tubman High and is today's Atholton High. It opened in 1966. 
The rapid pace at which Columbia was built called for unprecedented amounts of School Construction. In 1971 Columbia's first High School Wilde Lake (which I'm a 2002 graduate of) opened.

Two years later in 1973 Oakland Mills High opened. Some of Columbia's Villages were mean to have High Schools that never came to be. Haprers Choice is one of those Neighborhoods. When Centennial High opened in 1977 most of its population originally came from Harpers Choice. Centennial has since had mad massive growth in its District so much so that all of Harpers Choice has returned to Wilde Lake High. Owen Brown was also slated to have a High School of its own.
In 1976 Hammond High opened in what is now the Village of Kings Contrivance and Owen Brown occupied Hammond until more development took place around the School. Eventually all of Owen Brown was redistricted back to Oakland Mills which is a better fit considering some homes off of Cradlerock Way are within walking distance of Oakland Mills High. Some Columbia Neighborhoods were never meant to have a High School such as Hickory Ridge because Atholton is right there (though most of the Village historically has attended Wilde Lake though Hawthorn now attends Atholton and only Clarys Forest now attends now Wilde Lake) Long Reach was never meant to have a High School either because Howard is just across the street from the northern border of Long Reach's Phelps Luck Neighborhood. Dorseys Serach was also not supposed to have a High School because it's so close to Centennial High although the entire Village attends Wilde Lake.
The 1980s saw massive growth in North Laurel located in the southeast of Howard County. At one point there was supposed to be a High School located in North Laurel proper to provide relief for Hammond which was adapting to the growth from Columbia's King Contrivance Neighborhood. The County opted not to build a High School in this densely populated area instead they built one in Clarksville and was to be Columbia's Final Village; River Hill. The School was built before a single house in River Hill was completed. The school opened in 1994 as a holding School to Wilde Lake High whose school was to be rebuilt over the next two years and then in 1996 to its own population River Hill swallowed what was then most of the entire District. Atholton, in need of regaining its population became the High School for North Laurel though students would have to travel in between the River Hill and Hammond High Districts each day to get to Atholton.
In 1996 in addition to River Hill opening to its own district and Wilde Lake opening to its new building Long Reach High (pictured above) opened. Wait a minute! Didn't I just say that Long Reach was one of the Villages on Columbia that did NOT have a High School site? I did and I stand by that claim. It seems that our School System was being cheap. The preferred location for this School was to be in Elkridge where Howard High feeling its recent population boom. The School System owned land in Long Reach just past the Village Center that the Rouse Company gave to them for a Middle School. Long Reach Middle was never built as the County preferred to build Mayfield Woods and Bonnie Branch both of which serve parts of Long Reach. So the vacant site reserved for a Middle School wasn't needed at that time (it is now that's my preferred area for Middle School #20) so it became a High School. Seeing how close it is to Howard there are parts of Long Reach that are very close to both Schools and parts of Elkridge that aren't close to either and it's a shot in the dark whether or not their districted School be it Long Reach or Howard is the one their home is closer to.
Back in the southern portion of the County it's time that another High School be built for a 2002 opening. Yet again the County opted not to build a School in North Laurel and used a sparsely populated site that nobody could walk to. This time it was in Fulton which would relieve crowding at River Hill, Atholton, and Hammond High. There was redistricting in many other High Schools as well but this new High School named Reservoir took its district from these three Schools mainly Atholton. Atholton then took from Hammond, Wilde Lake, and River Hill to yet again refill its district. It seems that North Laurel will never get a High School of its own which will reduce transportation costs. In 2005 Marriotts Ridge High (pictured below) opened in the Marriottsville/Woodstock/West Friendship area drawing its district from Mount Hebron, Glenelg, River Hill, and Centennial.
 Now here we are in 2012 on the eve of Howard High's 60th Anniversary, 60 years since all those old High Schools including Elkridge were closed. I felt that I had to provide a history of the High Schools that opened in between now and then to show everything comes full circle. Although those old High Schools closed in favor of one large centralized High School it seems that within 45 years all of those High Schools were replaced, that is except Elkridge High. Lets go over the list, Glenelg High replaced Lisbon High, River Hill High replaced Clarksville High, Centennial and Mount Hebron replaced Ellicott City High, and Hammond more or less replaced Savage High. The argument could be made that Long Reach replaced Elkridge High but projections indicate that both Howard and Long Reach will be very crowded by the year 2020. Long Reach in past years has been open to accept students from Howard when it became too crowded but in a few short years Long Reach itself will be too crowded. Now should the County build another High School near Howard and Long Reach  like they did with Reservoir being so close to River Hill and Atholton? NO! Those same projections show River Hill to be UNDER crowded and it appears that redistricting will have to take place to balance the numbers out but that will mean moving students who live much loser to other High Schools.
This means that this new High School will have to be further away from Howard and Long Reach yet still in an area that is growing rapidly, and what area fits the bill perfectly? Elkridge! Elkridge High must open in order to provide relief for Howard and Long Reach and perhaps even Hammond without being too close to any other School. The Elkridge area is just like North Laurel in that it's densely populated but all High School Students must take a long bus ride to their respective Schools. Unlike North Laurel this can be corrected because the need for another High School will present itself within the next few years. I'm thinking that the year 2022 should be the projected opening date for the new Elkridge to make it exactly 70 years after the old School closed and Howard opened. I think that will be a perfect fit for Elkridge to have it open 70 years later rather than 71 years or 67 plus years I like the even number of 70 as almost a celebration of all that's happened in that amount of time. I have the perfect site for Elkridge High as well; Troy Hill Park and Mansion. I don't usually support using park land for a School but I don't know of  another site that's large enough in the Elkridge area not slated for development. The County owns this land as well so site acquisition funds won't be required.
Given that Elkridge hasn't a High School to call its own for 60 years 10 years in retrospect isn't too long to wait don't you?