After two hours of debate, the Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday not to delay a $60 million renovation of Lansdowne High School.
Lansdowne was one of four large county high schools that administrators had recommended be partially renovated as part of a plan to upgrade 1960s-era buildings with sinking foundations, bursting pipes and partial or no air-conditioning, into 21st century facilities. Although the county is spending more than $1 billion over a decade to improve its school buildings and keep up with growing enrollment, high schools have been some of the last buildings to receive upgrades.
Parents had pointed to bowed walls, leaking pipes and other issues at Lansdowne that they said could not be resolved with a limited renovation.
The board approved renovations of Woodlawn and Patapsco high schools and the work is expected to begin in the next year. But parents sought to kill the renovations at Lansdowne and Dulaney high schools in hopes of getting new schools.
Last March, the board rejected the renovation plan submitted for Dulaney and directed the school staff to redesign the renovation plan for Lansdowne, nearly doubling the funding for the project.
School administrators presented the Lansdowne plans to the board Tuesday night and said the renovations would be so extensive that the school would look brand new.
Despite those assurances, some board members questioned whether the money would be better spent building a new school on the same property. In it’s current state Lansdowne is considered one of the most deteriorated buildings of the 173 schools in the system.
During the meeting, a dozen parents wearing bright blue t-shirts protested the planned renovation saying they wanted a newly constructed school. School board member Nick Stewart, who represents the area where Lansdowne is located, said a new building might not be built for years if the renovation was rejected.
“This is the most important thing we will consider for Lansdowne in a generation,” he said. Stewart spoke for nearly 10 minutes and explained that all the problems in the building had been identified and would be repaired.
School board member Roger Hayden said the building would still have some small classrooms.
“Is it going to be better than what is there? Probably,” he said. “Is it going to be a building that we in Baltimore County will be proud of?” Hayden left that question unanswered.
Only two members — Ann Miller and Hayden — voted to delay the project.