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Elkridge Residents Speak Out on Proposed Elementary School Site

Testimony was divided on merits of Ducketts Lane.

Would-be neighbors of a proposed elementary school on Ducketts Lane opposed the site Thursday night on grounds it would increase traffic, hurt the environment and be too close to other schools. Supporters said the site is badly needed, with schools in the northeast over capacity.

The site is planned for 6501 Ducketts Lane in Elkridge.

“The property was not meant to house a school” because it has an on one side and on the other, testified Becky Kimball, who lives adjacent to Ducketts Lane, at a before the Howard County Board of Education.

“I am personally opposed for several reasons,” said Lori Lane resident Suzanne Straub, including that the school would be located on a two-lane street ill-equipped to handle school traffic. She said there are partial wetlands on the site, which is in close proximity to other elementary schools.

There are three elementary schools in a four-mile radius of the Ducketts Lane site: (1.7 miles), (3.1 miles) and Bellows Spring Elementary (3.8 miles).

Valerie McGuire, speaking for the Greater Elkridge Community Association (GECA), testified that her group supported the site precisely because of the other institutions nearby.

“As of June 22, Bellows Spring was at 121 percent capacity and Elkridge Elementary was at 108 percent,” she said. “The primary reason we accept the Ducketts Lane site is that it would provide relief for these schools.” She added that it would afford families “proximity to a school located closer to their homes along the Montgomery Road corridor.”

Leslie Korneich, who lives in the greater Elkridge area, echoed the need for a school as the population swells. “With each passing week, more homes are going up on land where our community hoped to see a new school,” she said.

A representative for the Concerned Citizens of Howard County also cited increasing population density in support of the Ducketts Lane site.

“With the ongoing … development in the Northeast, the demands on those distinct schools are beyond their capacities,” said the group's spokeswoman. “If the Ducketts Lane school can provide the opportunity to reduce overcrowding, we welcome that site.” 

Citing the land's environmental issues and history, Straub disagreed. “The county considered this location and found it unsuitable for a school or even a post office due to it being partial wetlands and for its small size,” she said.  She said mitigation for wetlands would end up costing the county.

“I am a taxpayer, and I know this would hit my pocket directly,” she added.

Another Ducketts Lane-area resident said she didn’t approve of the site but felt it was a done deal.

“The plans have already gone through, because I know the land’s been surveyed; the bus lane has already been designated,” said Susan Shaw, who lives on Kyle Leaf Court.

She asked whether any board members were Elkridge residents. ”Nobody on this board lives in the Elkridge area where this is going to be built,” she said after a show of hands revealed no board members lived there. “I’m very disappointed.”

Residents want plan revised

Straub encouraged the county to consider alternatives that may be more cost-effective like redistricting, noting that there are schools in the western part of the county that are under-utilized.

GECA also discussed using as a temporary location while a new school is being built.

Despite GECA’s support for the Ducketts Lane school concept, McGuire said the logistics weren’t satisfactory. “While GECA believes it is of utmost importance that a new school be opened by fall of 2013, we are concerned that this 10-acre site does not meet the 16 acres needed to comply with the minimum,” said McGuire.

Korneich suggested revising the proposal.

“The Ducketts Lane site should hold a school larger than 600 seats…. Given the enrollment numbers of the current northeast schools, it makes no sense to build a 600-seat school and have to come back years later and spend millions of dollars on a hundred-seat addition, as has taken place twice since Bellows Spring Elementary was built in 2003.”

Planning officials told the board they had been drafting and revising some details already.

“We have been working feverishly,” said Ken Roey, director of facilities for the Howard County Public School System. He explained that he met with environmental officials and the Army Corps of Engineers about the wetlands and was going through the final phase of due diligence and acquisition.

“We’re still working through the technical details,” said Roey. “There will be some changes to the site configuration.”

Roey said he will bring the plan before the board on Aug. 18, when it could vote on whether to move forward with development of the elementary school.

Val McGuire July 15, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Concerns by residents on Ducketts Lane are well founded. Every attempt should be made to alleviate their concerns regarding visual separation to the site, traffic, parking, safety etc. A fully working traffic light at Rte. 1 and Ducketts is mandatory. I hope the school system will work with the residents of Ducketts Lane to make this a win-win for our children. It is indeed unfortunate that property has not been bought in advance of density increases in the Route 1 corrridor. We must make the best of an intolerable situation. Thanks to the reporter for a fair and accurate report.
Zakk July 15, 2011 at 02:12 PM
I live on Ducketts and I have discussed this with my neighbors and we are ALL for it. I'm not sure who these people are who don't want the school built. I can only assume they are the same people who pushed for bars to go 'smoke free' even though they don't frequent or own those bars. I love it when un-involved people get to make decisions about things that have no effect on them. #HEREWEBUILDDUCKETTS
Adam R July 15, 2011 at 03:48 PM
HCPS should use temporary shelters for classrooms at the other three elementary schools. This population increase is left over effects from Elkridge growing from 19K to 38k residents in the past decade. This will pass, we are all built up now, and the kids will grow up and in 10 years HCPS will have to close an elementary school, so just say no to building it in the first place.
BK July 15, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Hey Zakk - where do you think people are going to park during school functions? There are only 100 spaces planned for this school. Staffing will take approximately 70-80 of those spaces. That means cars are going to park in the townhomes, along Ducketts Lane and the other side streets. Also - are you awared that they have another elementary school planned in the next five years? We are all taxpayers. Why does it make sense to build two schools in the same area in such a short amount of time. Why not take the time to build a larger school that can accomodate the needs? I am not totally opposed to the school. After attending the hearing last night, I do believe the Board is backed into a corner and are being pushed into a solution that may not make the most fiscal sense.
Val McGuire July 15, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Placing a new school within an established neighborhood needs to be done with care and the highest consideration. Residents should feel that their quality of life is actively protected. I'd like to believe that County Executive Ulman will have the school system & the BOE do everything they can to accomodate the children of northeastern Howard County since the school system and DPZ dropped the ball on acquiring land for Elem, Middle, & High school sites. Ken Ulman will give the Superintendent whatever money is needed to purchase land for future schools---he has promised the funds will be there. Now, we just need to identify the sites and buy them NOW. As a start, they have an opportunity to correct this massive oversite by purchasing this land for this elementary school. Words mean nothing; action means everything. The greater Elkridge area has been at the table and waited patiently for action. Our time has come. Fact is, it is way overdue.
S.S. in Elkridge July 15, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Thank you!
Shannon July 15, 2011 at 07:52 PM
I live on Ducketts and I have mixed feelings about the school. On one hand, I am not looking forward to the construction process or all of the traffic that will follow once the school is built - those issues definitely need to be worked on prior to the build. But, I have 2 young children who would attend this school and I truly like the idea of them being able to attend a brand new school so close to home. I think it could turn out to be a great thing for our neighborhood...and that's coming from someone who lives right across the street from the proposed site.
S.S. in Elkridge July 15, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Your assumptions are false. I am a neighbor within the community and live close to the proposed elementary school site. I take offense when statements are made from people who make unfounded judgements. I have been a resident of the community for almost 20 years and do not feel this is the best solution for our neighborhood or the county. To each his own.
Keith B. July 15, 2011 at 08:09 PM
The intersection at US 1 and Ducketts Lane MUST be straightened with a right lane added to Ducketts La. and a full cycle traffic light without exception. The current intersection with the fish tail to the left at the bottom of the hill and stop sign should be redesigned. It's a bad road/intersection design in the first place. Add more school buses that will need to make wide right turns in the morning and afternoon additional cars droping off and picking up children and you have a recipe for accidents and homeowners late to work every morning. Not to mention the left turn problems that now exist without the school. Contact the head of Howard County Public Works (James Irvin, Director) with your concerns and sudggestions before they finish drafting plans we will have to live with and deal with another day. Act now!!!
edb July 16, 2011 at 01:38 PM
EES has had 2 temporary classrooms for several years now and this summer 3 more are being installed. Where do these 570+ students get to play when their blacktop is littered with trailers? The trailers need to be positioned close to the school for electric hookup and for ease of students getting to class even in inclement weather. No wonder there are so many behavior problems in these schools....the kids are in each others personal space therefore creating conflict. The only time they have outside is recess for 20 minutes per grade and they at least need to have room to run and play. And yes....play is very important for school children.
edb July 16, 2011 at 05:01 PM
correction of the number of students...EES has 870+ students
Richard Nordeck July 21, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I resent and continue to resent folks who do not ACTUALLY LIVE in Elkridge to promote projects which have direct impact on folks that do ACTUALLY LIVE in Elkridge. I have ACTUALLY LIVED on Ducketts Lane for a decade and this project is a nightmare waiting to happen! If you don't live in ELKRIDGE (21075), please keep your opinions to yourself. Stop scratching an itch you don't have! Thanks . . . . . .
Geoff Pickett July 21, 2011 at 07:59 PM
They need to shelve the Troy Park Tennis Center and use the land to buld new schools: http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/howard/ph-ho-cf-troy-tennis-0721-20110630,0,6486812.story
Richard Nordeck July 21, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Now there's a suggestion having merit !! I have alway thought a Tennis Center in Elkridge was extremely ill-advised. Howard County . . . build a project that HAS a demand . . . not something extraneuos with marginal demand like a "tennis center". KISS - keep it simple stupid.
Lori August 08, 2011 at 08:16 PM
After looking at the Potential Attending Area (on the map from a previous article), most of the students attending the new school will be coming from the new construction south on Route 1 (near Jessup) and over near Montgomery Run Road (new housing as well). While I don't oppose a school per se, I think the HCPSS should do a better job districting the neighborhoods for the new school (and for all schools) instead of the annual redistricting that is now the norm for the county. I'm really frustrated by that as well all the mayhem that will be a result of having a school in a quiet, established neighborhood. I also agree that there is a lot of vacant space in the Troy Hill park that could be utilized for a new school(s) and the relocation of the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department - that they are also trying to relocate in a residential area (at the intersection of Bauman and Montgomery Roads.)

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