County Schools Need $2B to Upgrade Aging Buildings
Officials offer plan to clear capital backlog among system's 172 schools in report during legislative forum at Chesapeake High School in Essex.
Baltimore County Public Schools needs approximately $2 billion to completely modernize its aging school inventory and to address an array of infrastructure issues, according to a schools report provided to local and state legislators today.
The report was part of a larger presentation given by county school officials on the state of the system during a Board of Education-sponsored legislative forum at Chesapeake High School in Essex.
"Until every building is fully modernized, it is critical to continue to evaluate all of our buildings on an annual basis," said Michael Sines, executive director of the county department of physical facilities. "It's especially important we keep track of our older building so that our students continue to learn in a safe and sound environment conducive to learning."
In all, 127 of Baltimore County's 172 school buildings are at least 40 years old. And, 65 are at least 50 years old. In many cases, the county admits existing buildings don't have the capacity to be refurbished with amenities such as air conditioning and may have to eventually be replaced to offer all of the technological advances communities expect today.
A prime example of this is the decision to build a new Dundalk High/Sollers Point Tech, which will cost about $78.6 million to move the schools onto one campus. Dundalk was built in 1959 and Sollers Point dates to 1948.
The county school system has already spent close to $1 billion between 1998 and 2009 on capital projects for elementary and high schools. Much of this was to address a long backlog of repairs dating back decades. Sines said it would cost an average of about $45 million to refurbish or replace each high school and about $10 million to do the same for elementary schools.
To attack the backlog, the school system developed a capital planning process to prioritize maintenance and renovation projects. This includes conducting feasibility studies on schools based on age and then developing a priority list.
County school officials can then determine whether a building is in need of systemic renovations, limited renovations, major renovations or if a new building is needed.
Some examples of schools in Essex and Middle River that have benefitted from this process recently include Victory Villa and Sandalwood Elementary schools. Victory Villa had rotted floor supports and other flooring work completed over the summer while Sandalwood had repairs completed over the last three fiscal years to its mechanical systems.
"It's critical to have a plan and to be aware of the condition of the building, its age and the student population while also trying to balance the needs from a geography standpoint so one area doesn't benefit more than another," county school board president Earnest E. Hines said.
Having a priority list is even more important for the county school system as it tries to convince local and state lawmakers they need additional funding at a time when most jurisdictions are dealing with budget deficits.
Between Fiscal Years 1997 and 2010, Baltimore County schools have received an average of $26.6 million annually from the state and $104.4 million each year from the county for capital projects.
"In an era when budgets are so tight, it's very important to be able to articulate your priorities coming to Annapolis," said Del. Joseph Boteler, R-Parkville. "I'm not sure where the money can come from to address all of these needs, but having a forum like this allows us to understand the bigger picture the school system is facing."