Lansdowne High School renovations to be reconsidered

Jon Bleiweis
Contact Reporterjbleiweis@baltsun.com

It's back to the drawing board for Lansdowne High School renovation plans.

The Baltimore County school board voted last week to reject a proposal to renovate the building and revise the project to make more extensive changes.

The board also voted March 7 to approve renovation contracts for Patapsco and Woodlawn high schools and reject a similar contract at Dulaney High School. The total cost of the four renovations would have been about $100 million, or about $30 million to $40 million each.

The proposed renovations are part of a 10-year, $1.3 billion county project to build or refurbish buildings.

At Lansdowne, the proposal, which cost about $30 million, would have included a new roof and the addition of air conditioning to the 54-year-old building. Enrollment at the school is 1,338 students, which is below the school's capacity of 1,420.

In a survey of school buildings done several years ago, Lansdowne High was considered one of the most deteriorated in the county.

School board member Nick Stewart, who lives in Arbutus, proposed the school board look into adding more funding to a Lansdowne renovation and said a more "fulsome" project would bring it more in line with the one at Pikesville High School which opened last year. That renovation cost more than $50 million.

Having additional funds — which would come from unallocated money in the county's Schools for the Future program budget — could result in additional classroom and exterior work, he said, adding some classrooms are smaller than the recommended size.

Stewart said a process to redesign and re-bid the project should take place over the summer, which could delay the project's completion by a year.

A cost estimate would be calculated once the new scope of renovations was decided, he said.

Ultimately, while the school board can recommend where funding in the school system goes, it's up to the county executive to make the final decision.

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he is willing to take a look at a new bid but will not have a position on a proposal with a larger scope until he sees one.

Kobler said Kamenetz won't consider a new building. She did not know what the cost estimate for a new Lansdowne building would be, but the $135 estimate for a new Dulaney building was out of the question.

"At this point, we're looking at renovations," she said. "Just like Dulaney, it's not affordable to consider a new high school."

Baltimore County Council chairman Tom Quirk, who represents Lansdowne and is also the chairman of the council's spending authority committee, said it would be difficult to build four new high schools unless property taxes or income taxes were raised, which is something he does not anticipate in the next several years.

"I think communities waiting for brand new schools might be waiting a very long time," he said. "I think the more realistic possibility is getting a much more substantial renovation."

He said he was appreciative of the school board's efforts to enhance a renovation.

"I want as much of a new school as we can," he said. "An additional $20 to 30 million will go a long way toward accomplishing that."

Staff writer Rachael Pacella and Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this report.

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