Ending a face-off with the Harford County Council over which of two planned elementary schools would be built first, the Harford County Board of Education voted 5 to 2 last night to proceed with Red Pump Elementary. Red Pump has also been approved for construction funding by the council, paving the way for relief of overcrowded area schools, including Youth’s Benefit Elementary.
Board Member Robin Rich, who later cast one of the two “no” votes said of the switch back to Red Pump: “Our arms are behind our back, twisted up, we have no funding authority.”
Red Pump Elementary had been ahead of Campus Hills on the school board’s own priority list until last December when declining enrollment prompted School Board President Patrick Hess to question whether two schools were needed. Hess said last night it was a “terrible mistake on my part to ever bring this up” but added that he was trying to be responsible to taxpayers by building only one school. The board later halted plans for Red Pump in favor of Campus Hills. Last night, Hess voted in favor of the switch back to Red Pump although he said he wanted to be “on the record” that he firmly believed it was wrong to build Red Pump first. Still, he urged all concerned to “forget our differences” saying “We need to do what we need to do for the children.”
Red Pump Elementary had been on track to open in 2010 before the delay. Last night’s vote now calls for Red Pump to open in August, 2011, followed by Campus Hills in 2013.
The Harford County Council, which is forward funding both schools, has raised concerns about the Campus Hills school site including roadways, water, sewer and the school’s location outside the development envelope, making a 2013 opening far from assured.