On Wednesday, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education heard a proposal from a team of developers offering to build an elementary school near the Odenton/Crofton border, south of Piney Orchard.
Since there is a lot at play here, I decided to do a Q&A explainer to break down the various issues involved. If you have other questions related to this, throw them my way in the comments.
OK, so who is proposing to do what?
Koch Homes and Classic Communities Corp. have plans to build 2,060 homes near the Odenton/Crofton border, not far from the Capitol Raceway. The project is referred to as Two Rivers. To accommodate students from the project, they have offered to build an elementary school nearby at a cost of $38 million.
Wait, I thought the Two Rivers project was supposed to be a 55-and-over development.
So did a lot of people. But the developers said market conditions and demographics changed. And with proposed expansions at Crofton Elementary and Crofton Middle schools, they will be permitted to move forward because there will technically be school capacity in the area.
But if Crofton Elementary and Middle Schools will be "open," why would the developers pay $38 million for a new school?
If students from Two Rivers head to Crofton Elementary, that would put the school back to over capacity, or close to it. The school system wouldn't be thrilled with that. Furthermore, the school system would prefer not to bus students across Maryland Route 3.
How big would the school be? Who would it serve?
It would be about 90,000 square feet in size with a large gym, 32 classrooms and space for after care programs. It would sit on 17 acres and have space set aside for new playing fields that could be used by the broader community.
The second question is hard to answer at this point. Presumably, the school would accommodate those students from Two Rivers. (A projected 373 students by 2023.) But it could also serve folks from Piney Orchard, Four Seasons or other nearby communities. It will all depend on available space at other nearby schools and the impact of other new developments.
What about the high school and middle schools? They're getting crowded, too!
Two Rivers Elementary School will feed into Arundel Middle School and Arundel High School, which are currently still open to new students. Officials predict the Two Rivers development will add 185 new students at Arundel Middle School and 228 students to Arundel High School by 2023. That would put both of those schools over capacity. But the school system has 11 years to find a solution to that problem.
Is this a done deal?
No. Developers on Wednesday were hoping that the school board would sign off on their concept plan, but the board held off on voting until at least Aug. 22. If the board approves the plan—not a guarantee—that simply authorizes the developers to enter into negotiations for a construction agreement. There's a lot of work still to be done.
What's the deal with the extension of Evergreen Road?
The developers and school officials said it makes sense to extend Evergreen Road up to Piney Orchard, because it would allow buses to easily get to the school without going onto the busy Maryland Route 3. They say they've looked at other possibilities, but all had hurdles that would be too hard to overcome. (Resident opposition, environmental concerns, geography.)
The current proposal calls for the road to hit Piney Orchard at Strawberry Lake Way, taking away just under an acre of land from GORC Park. (The developers said they'll give about 2.2 acres back.) Of course if the road is approved, it begs the question of who else would drive on it? Presumably, it could be used as a cut-through to get from Piney Orchard to the Waugh Chapel shopping centers, so some residents might see it as a good thing.
But others are less than thrilled about a road cutting through GORC Park. There are a lot of details unclear, such as what proximity the road would have to ballfields, and whether the road would be used to serve trucks from the proposed landfill operations nearby.
At this point, the road is still in the early design phase and isn't yet close to approval. If community groups get their way, there will be an opportunity for them to weigh in on this and present alternatives.