"That's what drives decisions," Frisch said. "You are the ones who help us."

Rick Grambo, who is acting as interim president on the board, said he spent a lot of time talking about the board's role with this decision with Dr. Wheeler.

"Our role as a board here is to put forth a priority list," he said. "This is not the end. This is the beginning."

He added that it is essentially up to the county executive and the county council to take care of the local funding and if and when that happens.


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Public support

Many supporters of Havre de Grace High School, wearing Warriors T-shirts and maroon and white school colors, and Youth's Benefit and community-based organization Build It Now, wearing their usual green shirts, were in attendance and advocated for replacement buildings in their communities.

Havre de Grace City Council members David Glenn, Bill Martin, Joseph Smith and Council President Randy Craig were in the audience along with Mayor Wayne Dougherty.

Glenn spoke on behalf of the city council, as he has done in previous meetings.

He listed various concerns the city has with the school, such as a main entrance separate from the main office, repeated gas leaks and a campus separated by heavily traveled roads.

Glenn said the county needs to "provide a safe and secure learning environment" for the students and with the current facility it is "falling short of that goal."

"There has to be a better way," he told the board. "It's time to take politics out of the mix. Don't jeopardize [the students'] education."

Paul MacMillan spoke on behalf of Build It Now, which advocates for replacements of the county's aging, multi-building elementary schools - namely Youth's Benefit and William Paca/Old Post Road elementary schools.

"Time is of the essence," MacMillan said referring to the request of funds. "Include Youth's Benefit as a replacement of this year's [capital improvement] plan."

MacMillan noted that Youth's Benefit has been on the school system's priority list for replacement, at one level or another, for 16 years and is basically shovel ready.

Joppatowne community members, including Parent Teacher Student Association President Brenda Flenner, also made their case for renovations to their high school. Joppatowne, which opened in 1972, is the next oldest high school building after Havre de Grace.

She asked the board to provide Joppatowne students "with the quality learning environment that meets the standards of other Harford County schools."

Flenner added that JHS was a "forward-thinking facility" with its homeland security magnet program and should not be labeled as "inferior or unimportant" as many Route 40 corridor schools unfairly are.

Finishing the plan

Before their final vote Monday, school board members considered several amendments to the capital improvement plan, which they had also discussed during their Sept. 10 meeting, the last session presided over by the late Dr. Wheeler.

The two most controversial amendments were made by Frisch, first proposed to add a request of $1 million from the local level for planning services on the Youth's Benefit project.