Southeast Howard County Is Worth the Investment
Southeast Howard County Is Worth the Investment
An Open Letter to the Howard County Executive, County Council, and Board of Education, from the Citizens of Southeast Howard County:
While we all understand that this year’s budget will be severely constrained because only a very small increase in revenue is expected, we feel that full funding of already-approved capital projects in the southern and eastern regions of Howard County needs to be seen as an important investment in the residents of these areas.
These investments in our schools and community centers only begin to bring the region up to parity with the rest of Howard County.
They affirm Howard County’s commitment to the education of its children as a core value, and recognize the crucial role it plays in driving the County’s economy.
And with the land available for development extremely limited in Howard County, revitalization of the Route 1 Corridor is one of the few significant opportunities to drive the revenue growth that Howard County needs to be able to provide future services and amenities to all of its residents.
1. Specifically, projects already in the budget for the renovation of Hammond High School, the new High School #13 and Elementary School #43 in Jessup, and the pool at North Laurel Community Center (NLCC) should not be eliminated or rolled back because they address decades-long deficiencies for the citizens of this region.
2. In particular, we agree Howard County’s vision needs to be that no child should receive an education that doesn’t meet our high standards simply because of the school that they attend.
Ensuring that all Howard County children are provided with an equitable outcome in education is a key part of our values, while also an important part of creating a greater good for our entire community.
3. While facilities are only part of the outcome, the disparities are so great that they must finally be addressed by Howard County, especially when we all as Howard County taxpayers have signaled that education is by far the biggest priority in the County budget.
- Hammond High School is in dire need of renovation and expansion, and this project would finally bring it up to the standard of other Howard County schools.
A facilities assessment a decade ago showed that it is too small to meet the needs of its current population, with a serious lack of programming space and many restrictions resulting from its outdated 40-year-old design.
Not only are the science labs so small that students must use them in shifts, but the school lacks dedicated special education spaces and is the only high school in Howard County with only a single gym.
Even the many bottlenecks within the hallways of the school detract from its educational mission as additional time is needed to allow students time to transit between classes.
The renovation and expansion of Hammond High School will not only address these and numerous other deficiencies but allow the school to serve Howard County’s growing population.
- Similarly, the new High School #13 and Elementary School #43 on Mission Road in Jessup both address immediate overcrowding issues from Howard County’s high growth rate and also signal that Howard County is committed to bringing the same quality education to the residents of the southeast region.
This is in the finest traditions of Howard County, as over 50 years ago James Rouse and his planners made the conscious decision to systematically transform the Howard County Public School System into one focused on excellence, because they felt that it would create the kind of community they envisioned for their new planned community of Columbia.
They recognized that creating a high-quality school system would not only lift up the community they were trying to build – as Rouse famously called it, a garden for growing people – but also produce a virtuous cycle by attracting the kinds of residents whose values would match what they were trying to create.
And revitalization of the Route 1 Corridor will ultimately pay great dividends for Howard County. Not only is it the right thing to do for the residents who already live there, but making Route 1 truly an integral part of Howard County has the greatest potential for enhancing the economy of the whole County and the quality of life for everyone.
4. Last but not least, a pool was promised to the residents of the Southeast Region when the North Laurel Community Center was first built 10 years ago.
But the project languished even as large pool facilities were built elsewhere in Howard County.
- Though we are adjacent to Columbia, the residents of this region are not part of Columbia Association, meaning that the nearest Howard County pool facilities are on the other side of Columbia.
- Thus we were understandably excited when after many years, the NLCC Pool finally made its way into the capital budget and the preliminary designs showed a facility that can be a true benefit to the residents of Howard County.
In closing, we want to reiterate that we know that budget decisions are always difficult and that there are many competing priorities.
But we want to emphasize again that these projects are only the start of bringing facilities in the southern and eastern sectors up to the standard that we all should expect of Howard County.
And ultimately they are an investment in the citizens and (most importantly) the children of Howard County.