Plan for Coca Cola Drive Middle School Approved
The plan for the two-story middle school was approved 6-1.
The Howard County school board has approved the schematic design plans for a new middle school near Elkridge.
The vote was 6-1, though school board chair Sandra French initially overlooked the opposition of board member Allen Dyer during the board's Feb. 23 meeting.
Citing swelling enrollment, the Howard County Board of Education decided in October to pursue plans to build a school on Coca Cola Drive that would open by 2014.
Under the county code, schools must be no more than 115 percent at capacity for new residential development to occur.
With a middle school site in place by 2014, the county was able to permit development on a vote that passed unanimously in the County Council earlier this month.
The Hanover school site has been controversial because CSX railroad and the state have been evaluating four sites for an industrial facility where trains and trucks will swap freight; one is on Hanover at Race roads, approximately 1 mile from the Coca Cola Drive school parcel.
In December, when Elkridge residents expressed their discontent with the Coca Cola Drive school site during a "coffee and conversation" outreach event with school board members, the board said that it was possible to switch the site at a later time. Neither the board nor the school system staff has presented any additional sites for the middle school.
School board member Brian Meshkin asked the school system staff on Feb. 23 for an update on the freight project—called an intermodal facility—but there were no developments, according to Ken Roey, director of facilities.
“There really hasn’t been any detailed information on the selection process [other] than the general timeline that was previously provided," said Roey.
The Maryland Department of Transportation and CSX, co-sponsors of the intermodal project, are considering four sites for the facility and told Patch on Feb. 24 that they are "still on track" to select one by the end of 2012.
In January 2012, the school system acquired the 20 acres on Coca Cola Drive for the school.
"The intermodal would be approximately three quarters of a mile north on the rail line," said Roey last week at the meeting about the middle school.
Officials reported that school construction would begin in May 2013, and the Oxford Square housing development surrounding it would begin this spring.
The new middle school's projected opening date is August 2014.
During the Feb. 23 Board of Education meeting, board member Janet Siddiqui asked whether there would be a swimming pool near the school.
“There’s still a plan for some type of community space on the site," said Roey of potential amenities within the Oxford Square development, but outside the footprint of the school site. "What is being discussed is some type of library.” He added that it would be a Howard County Library.
Meshkin asked whether the school building's design reflected the shift in middle school curriculum, which the board passed earlier this month and would include world languages and more physical education.
"We feel it does," said Bruce Gist, director of construction for Howard County schools. He and the team working on the project presented plans for a two-story building to serve 702 students that was in line with the county's prototypical middle school design, updated to include modifications like an energy-efficient HVAC system.
Also, after conferring with teachers, the architects decided to create two large planning spaces that could be used as additional classrooms and a special education suite rather than several smaller spaces.
"Some of these items will be fleshed out during the design and development phase of the project," said Gist. Those plans will be rolled out over the next year as the design progresses.
All members voted to approve the schematic design plans except Dyer, who has opposed the Coca Cola Drive site since its introduction in 2010.
“I’m absolutely against this site because of the nearness to the railroad tracks," said Dyer, whose protestations facilitated the school site's move from several hundred feet from the CSX main line to what Gist said was a distance of 1,000 feet.
"It’s dangerous," said Dyer. "There should never be a school there."