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PTA: Parking Garage Would Create 'Prison Yard' Effect

Speaking to the county Board of Education, a PTA representative cited all the organization's concerns regarding the potential new structure.

When Sarah Williamson spoke to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education Wednesday afternoon she made it clear the Annapolis Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association is concerned with more than just the fate of the playground.

Speaking on behalf of the PTA, Williamson laid out a lengthy list of concerns involving the city’s proposition to build a parking garage along Compromise Street near the school. They all involved the safety and health of the students.

The garage would be built at the same time as an upcoming renovation and expansion of the school.

Wednesday’s board meeting was the first time the two groups officially talked about the possibility. They are now working on a memorandum of understanding to move forward with planning the garage.

But if the PTA had its way, the project wouldn’t progress past this point. And here’s a look at some of the concerns Williamson mapped out during the meeting:

  • “The construction of a garage would create what I see as a ‘prison yard’ effect with an even smaller play space confined on at least three, if not four sides, by structures blocking out the sun and breeze.”
    She said moving the playground closer to the school would further limit the already small open area where the students play kickball and tag.
  • “The negative health effects of car and truck exhaust are widely known, with ozone and particulates from cars increasing the incidence of asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and even susceptibility to the common cold, and hence, student absences.”
    She said having a garage so close would increase the students’ exposure by attracting more vehicles to the area, and even talked about the potential impact of cold versus warm catalytic converters.
  • “Because of our urban setting, school staff already have to periodically wake sleeping vagrants up and ask them to leave the playground or school grounds, or clean up alcohol bottles or drug paraphernalia from the ground before the children can come outside.”
    She said the garage would prevent the play area from being seen from the street and encourage use of the area as a nighttime hangout.
  • “It could also hinder students and staff exiting the school property in an emergency.”

“The city’s proposal does nothing to enhance the educational opportunities and learning environment at Annapolis Elementary School, and in fact, we feel it threatens the very same.”

ChessiePk February 17, 2012 at 04:04 PM
This list of concerns is quite valid. What was the outcome?
Chris Stelzig February 17, 2012 at 04:29 PM
The outcome is that the BOE approved a motion to continue to discuss the issue and determine if they are going to sign an MOU. This reasonable approach is short of what the city was hoping for, I think but not one that we (the PTA) object to (at least I don't). I think that most of us agree that the end-game pursued by the city is good (getting cars off of Ego Alley). It is the 'getting there' that we take issue with. It cannot be at the expense of the health and safety of the kids at AES. There are other ways to consider solving parking woes (real or perceived) that are not this drastic.
John Wilfong February 17, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Thanks Chris. And Chessie, and further answer your question, you can read my coverage of meeting where the MOU was discussed — http://patch.com/A-qThl. I'll be keeping up to date on this project as it progresses. Thanks for reading.
Heather Macintosh March 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM
This issue is still in front of the Anne Arundel County School Board. Two more parents testified last Wednesday night, and restated opposition to this project, but the school board still hasn't given us an answer. The City, meanwhile, unanimously approved $20,000 in spending to study the relocation of the playground. This tells us that the City is refusing to look at any other reasonable option while the School property is still up for grabs. This is so backwards! The City has not done their homework to determine where and how much parking the downtown really needs, looked at other viable options (expanding Hillman garage?) and even thought out whether "greening" the parking area on City Dock is the right step for Annapolis right now. It all sounds great in theory, but look at the mess they've made of the Market House: do they really need to take on another commercial project when they've done such a poor job at managing the one they have right in front of them? If the City playground (which the school PTA helped pay for), and the basketball court are taken away from the school property, the students of Annapolis Elementary will have nowhere to play. What's left for them under Mayor Cohen's plan is a 6,000 square foot triangle in the shadow of a four story parking garage. Please sign on behalf of the 225 kids at Annapolis Elementary : http://www.change.org/petitions/save-the-annapolis-playground www.change.org

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