Funding in Demand for Overcrowded School

- FREDERICK, Md. -- The Frederick County Public School Board of Education and members of Frederick’s Hillcrest Community are asking the County Board of Commissioners to make funding available sooner than planned to build a new school in the area.

School officials say the Hillcrest Elementary School is currently at 130 percent capacity and the overcrowding has forced the school district to put 23 portable classrooms on the schools property. Currently, 14 are used for classrooms for third, fourth and fifth graders.

“That's now, and the school isn't going to get built for another four years, it impacts everyone in the school, the principal, our kids, our events,” said Lissette Colon, the vice president of the Hillcrest Elementary School Parent Teacher Association.  “It's also a safety issue we’re only supposed to have 670 students and right now as of today we have 987 students.”

A new elementary school is slated to be built off Butterfly Lane on 12.5 acres of the Hargett Farm, that land was acquired from the City of Frederick. Parents from the school are joining the Board of Education, asking County Commissioners to make funding available sooner than planned.

“Our advocacy is centered on moving that forward,” said Ray Barnes, Executive Director of Facilities Services at Frederick County Public Schools.

Some parents say the project is taking too long, especially with enrollment expected to increase within the next year. The school’s P.T.A says the school has already been approved for four additional portable classrooms.

“It doesn't help in the community any to see an overcrowded school, to see all those portables sitting there, it's like portable city,” said Colon.

Parents say the school has already converted the auditorium stage into a cafeteria extension and that a computer lab in a portable classroom will now be converted for extra gym space. They say they’ve also lost programs and other accommodations their community needs.

“This is a school district that brings with it a lot of challenges. So in addition to it being overcrowding, it brings a lot of challenges with it related to poverty,” said Barnes.

Currently, county funding is being made available for Fiscal Year 2018, the School Board says they hope to move it up to 2017 and will make that request Tuesday night at the Board of County Commissioners Capital Improvements hearing.

The project is estimated to cost $30 million.

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