- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2007

BALTIMORE — City public schools should be an option for families moving to the state as a result of the military’s base reorganization plan, schools Chief Executive Officer Andres Alonso said yesterday.

“There are existing and unused opportunities in the city schools for families who might want to move into the city,” Mr. Alonso said at a meeting of the military Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) subcommittee, led by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. “We have some of the best magnet high schools in the state. There is an opportunity to expand on what those high schools already offer.”

The city’s hospitality to BRAC workers coming to the state should include bolstering public schools as a priority, he said.

About 28,000 new households are expected in Maryland over the next four years because of BRAC, but only 2,500 are projected to settle in Baltimore. Mr. Brown and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, both Democrats, attempt to entice more of the new residents to the city.

The city’s declining population leaves it room to accommodate them, and its infrastructure is better able to handle the influx than the crowded counties surrounding Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the new jobs are concentrated.

But the city school system’s 60 percent graduation rate and its struggles to retain teachers and meet state testing requirements is likely to deter some potential residents.

Mr. Alonso said he will focus on involving the community, developing more technical training for students who choose not to go to college, and encouraging innovative schools to offer students more choices.

Maryland is expected to gain as many as 60,000 jobs from the military base realignment.

Meanwhile, officials say the number of jobs coming to Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County because of BRAC is less than what was planned.

The base will receive 19,000 new jobs instead of 22,000, according to the Army’s report on its final decision on how to implement BRAC at Fort Belvoir. The number is lower because some jobs at the Washington Headquarters Service, which is moving to Fort Belvoir, will go elsewhere, and more jobs than originally thought are leaving the base.

About 4,200 of the jobs will be positioned on the base’s main post, while 8,500 will go to the Belvoir-owned Engineer Proving Ground, an Army-owned parcel of land near the base in Springfield.

The report calls for more analysis on where to place the remaining 6,200 jobs. U.S. Reps. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, and Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, are attempting to transfer the ownership of a warehouse property near the Franconia-Springfield Metro stop from the federal government to the Army.

They argue that placing the remaining jobs there would give employees access to Metro and ease traffic, which is expected to be heavy when the new workers arrive.