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 to pursue plans to build a school on Coca Cola Drive that would open by 2014.

By 2013,  will be at 119.5 percent capacity, and  will be at 115.8 percent capacity, according to the school system's enrollment forecasts.

Under the county code, schools must be no more than 115 percent at capacity for  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 .

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  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  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 , 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."

kathy February 29, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Middle school near possible with inter modal activities? Not a good idea..increased truck traffic would be a nightmare...
edb February 29, 2012 at 01:19 PM
If they are going to place a school near the RR tracks, the administration better make sure that every student get on a bus at the end of the school day. When I was growing up, I lived close to the RR tracks and my High School was across the RR tracks....when I missed the bus, I crossed the tracks (fastest way from point A to B). I'm saying that I was a dumb, stupid kid and anything could have happened to me. I was always told to stay off the tracks, but teens don't always listen to their parents. Bad site for a middle school!!
Leslie Kornreich February 29, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Board members kept telling us that if the intermodal were to come to Hanover, they would move the middle school to another site. But they have no other site, and now that they have finished the design based on the Oxford Square site, there is no incentive to move. Coca-Cola drive will be on the path of 350-600 tractor trailers a day if the intermodal comes to Hanover, and our Board of Education is willing to put a school right in the middle of it. I don't know how anyone who voted for this site can sleep at night.
Jack February 29, 2012 at 05:46 PM
What do you think is worse, not being heard or being lied to. Either way we as parents have some serious issues with the hcpss which requires the removal of their senior staff. Be sure we work to rid ourselves of 2 problems, Siddiqui and Giles at the primary election.
Robert Judge March 01, 2012 at 03:26 AM
The primary is Tuesday April 3. Early voting starts soon.
BK March 01, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Opening this school allows the county council to release more building permits. Look what happened after the Ducketts Lane site was finalized. Within a week, building permits were flowing. This should allow even more. I say get rid of ALL of them - the board AND the council. They don't care what is happening in Elkridge. They just want to keep the developers happy.
Paul D March 03, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I agree with Becky that the primary reason these schools are being slated to open is to allow the Council to open the floodgates (even further) on development...ultimately to increase the tax base. In other words, I don't believe they are doing it for the good of our kids. However, I don't think the Coca Cola site is that awful for the placement of a school...as long as the CSX facility is not placed nearby. That being said, if the school is indeed going to be placed at the Coca Cola site, CSX should be banned from placing their facility nearby.


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