Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday he wants to close the Montrose School for delinquent youths in Baltimore County as soon as possible.

He said a recent tour of the facility showed him "the place is falling apart."

If Montrose closes, the approximately 190 boys and girls at the school would be placed in a variety of foster homes and community-based programs or sent back to their families, according to Linda D. Rossi, head of the Juvenile Services Administration, which oversees Montrose.

"I'd like to move in the direction of putting more youth in community-based programs," Schaefer told a conference of state juvenile justice experts in Annapolis. "The status quo hasn't worked. It will never work."

Rossi said an official announcement of the closing would not come for several days.

Experts and state officials have debated closing the century-old institution in Reisterstown for at least 15 years.

A state study last fall found that the institution was geared more toward custodial care than to treatment of juveniles.

Another state investigation, which followed the suicide of a 13-year-old Montrose student who had been held in solitary confinement, called the school "warehousing in the worst sense and absolutely contradictory to any philosophy of a humane juvenile justice system."