BCPS Study Finds LaFarge Site Not Large Enough For A New High School


Marks recommends evaluating the Lafarge site (Pictured) for a new school. (Credit: Google/Google Earth)

PERRY HALL - On January 17, the Baltimore County Council passed a resolution calling for a study on the LaFarge site for potential use by Baltimore County Public Schools. The study found that the area is suitable for a new school, with some caveats.

The LaFarge quarry site is a 390-acre parcel of land in the White Marsh area. According to the BCPS study, 25.2 acres have been allotted to the school system, with another 221.1 acres allocated for Baltimore County. LaFarge will develop the remainder of the lot as a mixed-use industrial and office park.

The study found that the area is large enough to accommodate a new middle or elementary school, soil analysis found no hazardous elements present, and BCPS estimated that the area's stormwater infrastructure could handle a school.

Nevertheless, according to BCPS, middle and elementary schools in the area are below or at capacity and are expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. The surrounding elementary schools are 374 students below full capacity, and middle schools are currently 175 students below maximum capacity.

According to the study, "State funding of a new school is based on capacity needs. With the current enrollment and projections below 100% capacity, state funding may not be available to offset project costs for a new elementary or middle school."

That leaves a new high school as the remaining option. Adjacent high schools are currently 391 students above maximum capacity. Projections indicate that continued growth will leave these schools 508 students above the maximum capacity in the next decade. Nearly every high school in the area is at capacity, with Perry Hall High School currently at 102.94% utilization.

Despite the need for a new high school, BCPS's study determined that the area needs to be larger to accommodate a sports field and other amenities associated with a large school.

"BCPS generally requires between 40-65 useable acres for a 1.000-2.500 student capacity high schools. The site is not able to accommodate all the required components of a high school program. The immediate school property may be able to include the school building, site circulation, parking, track/stadium, and hardscaped play areas."

Another issue facing the project is the area surrounding the LaFarge site. The surrounding community consists primarily of single-family homes, and the roads may not be ready to accommodate a new high school.

To allow for emergency vehicles and increased traffic to pass through the area to the LaFarge site, Ebeneezer road, the main artery into the area, would likely need to be widened.

Residents who live in the area have expressed concerns that the increased traffic and construction would impact their quality of life. Baltimore County Councilman David Marks has said he is opposed to widening Ebeneezer road.

"I am 100 percent against widening this local road," Councilman Marks commented. "Just as I have done with routes such as Chapel and Forge Roads in Perry Hall, I will work to block any widening that destroys the character of this road and require the expensive taking of private property. I will not only oppose funding in the county budget, but will work to amend the Master Plan to prohibit such a project any time in the future."

A public comment meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday to discuss developments on the property.

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