Schools Review Building Plans Amid Economic Crisis

Fri January 16, 2009 - Northeast Edition
CEG




WASHINGTON (AP) Some Washington-area school systems are considering plans to delay construction or close schools as their budgets tighten during the economic downturn.

Local governments have scrambled to find ways to cut spending as home sales and property values decline. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine also proposed slashing $425 million in state money for education last month.

That’s strained school budgets, forcing several local districts to make do with existing facilities.

In Maryland, Prince George’s County’s interim Superintendent, William R. Hite Jr., has proposed closing six under-enrolled schools. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Prince William County is looking into postponing construction of a badly needed high school.

In addition, Loudoun County, Va., could close a handful of under-enrolled schools and delay building schools for growing neighborhoods.

Such plans require schools to reset attendance boundaries, sending students to other schools that may not be in their neighborhoods.

Some families are upset that students would have to go to schools where they have no connections. They say children are separated from their friends, teachers, sports teams and clubs. Shifting at the high school level can be especially difficult.

“I know a lot of parents here are loading up the pitchforks and shovels now, in case the peasant revolution has to start in January,’’ when proposals for boundaries in Loudoun will be released, said Ed Sugg, whose children attend schools in the southeastern part of the county.

Loudoun school officials will consider redrawing attendance areas for nearly half the schools, including four high schools.

“I think it’s going to get real dicey around here,’’ said Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services for Loudoun schools. “These will be the most challenging boundary changes we’ve ever faced.’’

Prince George’s County school officials have not yet named which schools could be closed.

Besides boundaries being affected, budget woes also have forced schools to increase class size and cut back staff and programs.