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Mays Chapel Hearing
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January 14, 2013
Residents in Timonium’s Mays Chapel community get another chance today to change the minds of Baltimore County school board members about building an elementary school in a park near their homes. State officials are requiring the hearing because the first one was not properly publicized. WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn reports.
Whistler Burch: There’s a walkway that goes all the way around to the gazebo, through the woods and townhouses…
Gwendolyn Glenn: Whistler Burch, co-chair of the Save Mays Chapel Park Committee, proudly shows off the park’s amenities. Surrounded by condominium buildings, residents can be seen jogging on the park’s paved paths or walking their dogs. Burch wants it to stay this way.
Burch: We’re not against kids, we know the importance of schools, but we just think this is the wrong place to try and horse shoe a 700-student school into a 20-acre property.
Glenn: Mays Chapel Park is owned by the school district and the county government. Sports fields take up 10 acres of the park. The remaining 10 acres of woods is where the Baltimore County School Board wants to build an elementary school. School board president Lawrence Schmidt says the property was originally acquired for a school.
Lawrence Schmidt: When people say this was a park and it’s being converted to a school. To the contrary, it’s a school site which had a recreation component which is now proposed to be developed as an elementary school.
Glenn: Schmidt says in 2002, county officials installed the walking paths, benches, gazebo and playing fields on the site. Over the years, Mays Chapel residents have become accustomed to the amenities and most don’t want to give them up.
Penny Noval: If the school ils there, the grounds will be off limits to all during school hours.
Glenn: A large number of Mays Chapel residents are expected to testify against the park being replaced with a school at today’s public hearing, such as Penny Noval. She and her husband, both retired teachers, moved into a townhouse by the park in 2007.
Noval: We felt the park was a wonderful opportunity for us to stay healthy, vibrant, interact socially with our neighbors and do exercise which is so important to remain healthy in your senior years.
Glenn: Because few children live in Mays Chapel, about 98 percent are expected to be bused to the area if the school is built there. Noval is concerned about the effect that will have on the community’s traffic.
Noval: Which is already quite congested on streets that are already a little bit treacherous. There is no shoulder, there is no berm on places like Padonia Road.
Glenn: But for school officials, the overcrowded elementary schools in the area take precedence and the new school could help ease that problem. Burch says they hope to convince the board to go with another alternative.
Burch: In Baltimore County for instance, there are more than 63 hundred empty seats in Baltimore County middle schools and why not, can we not merge some of these elementary school kids into existing middle schools.
Glenn: But Board president Schmidt says many parents do not want their elementary children in schools with older students. However, he says at this point, they aren’t ruling anything out. While walking his dog in the park, Kevin Grishkot said the recent removal of the park’s benches makes him think that keeping the park open has been ruled out.
Kevin Grishkot: I think it’s a foregone conclusion whether we want it or not. They’re gonna do it anyway and no one’s gonna be happy in the end.
Glenn: Even though the board voted unanimously in March to construct the school, before the state required them to hold today’s public hearing, there are a few new board members now. Again board president Schmidt.
Schmidt: We’ll consider whatever information is given to us at the public hearing and have another vote in February.
Glenn: If the board votes in favor of a school at the Mays Chapel site, Burch says they will consider legal avenues to stop the construction. I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting in Timonium for 88 1, WYPR.
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