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Parents form Dumbarton United to press for school air conditioning

PTAKevin KamenetzDavid Marks

With their most recent crusade — a renovation and addition to Stoneleigh Elementary — under way, Towson parents are gathering under a new banner and taking up a new cause.

Dumbarton Middle School PTSA President Cheri Bond Pegues announced this week the formation of Dumbarton United, an organization dedicated to securing funding for air conditioning at the 56-year-old school in Rodgers Forge.

"It's going to take a lot of funding, but we're just hoping that through the parents getting involved and advocating for a safe place for our children, that Baltimore County will take note and perhaps we will be the next in line," Pegues said.

"I know County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's priority is to have all schools in Baltimore County air conditioned," she said. "We would like to step up to the plate."

The group will also advocate for a solution to the projected middle school overcrowding in the York Road corridor, she said.

According to the announcement, the group believes "the lack of climate/ventilation control has a significant adverse effect on the scholastic success of Dumbarton students."

Pegues said she has the blessing of the state PTA and the school's principal, Kelly Erdman.

After seeing similar advocacy from Towson Families United and Stoneleigh United push county officials to easy overcrowding at Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh and Hampton elementary schools, Pegues said she wondered who would take up the mantel for Dumbarton.

The answer, it turned out, was her.

She anticipates that once families return from summer vacation, the group will form a 10-person board consisting of Dumbarton PTA board members and Stoneleigh United members.

Stoneleigh United member Juliet Fisher was out of town when Pegues initially held a group meeting, but this week she said she's behind the movement — and believes advocating for air conditioning will be easier than adding seats to a school.

"We're a little more comfortable with the process and asking for a lot less," Fisher said. "Hopefully, we can help fix these things and see what else can be done in the Towson community."

Pegues said she has the support of 5th District Councilman David Marks, who believes the group's allies from Stoneleigh United and Towson Families United are a "tremendous asset for them."

"We have limited resources in the county budget, but it's good for them to get organized and get this addressed as quickly as possible," Marks said.

Ten schools were tabbed to receive air conditioning as part of a referendum measure Kamenetz introduced in his FY 2013 and 2014 budget — Timonium Elementary, Catonsville Elementary, Fort Garrison Elementary, Sudbrook Magnet Middle, Franklin Elementary, Hebbville Elementary, Woodmoor Elementary, Middleborough Elementary, Middlesex Elementary and Sussex Elementary. That referendum goes to voters in November.

After air conditioning is added to those schools, plus Stoneleigh Elementary and Hereford High during their renovations, 36 percent of county schools will be without air conditioning. Dumbarton is among these.

Marks said the next opportunity would be in 2014, when the next bond measure goes to referendum.

For more information, visit the group's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DumbartonUnited.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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