Members of the Harford County Board of Education are considering a Capital Improvement Program for the 2015 fiscal year and have passed an Educational Facilities Master Plan for the upcoming fiscal year that does not include funding for replacing Havre de Grace High School or for several other long-debated school improvements.
The plans do include funding requests to replace Youth's Benefit Elementary School in Fallston, which families in that community have sought since the late 1990s.
In addition, the capital program for 2015 calls for spending another $9 million on replacing the HVAC system at Fallston High School, a multi-year funding request that totals $18.1 million.
Meanwhile, several other projects are getting pushed back.
The design portion of renovating Homestead Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air and replacing William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School in Abingdon and the John Archer School for special needs students outside Bel Air would be put on hold "due to funding constraints," according to the Educational Facilities Master Plan, which the board approved unanimously during its meeting on Monday night.
The replacement of Havre de Grace High is also on hold until the board approves a "scope study," which would lay out the scope of the replacement project.
The scope study showed up on the board's agenda for approval several times during the fall of 2012, but the board delayed action to seek more information, according to the capital improvement plan, which noted school staff have provided the information.
Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations, told board members local school districts are required to submit their facilities master plans for next year to the state by July 1, this Monday.
The master plan for Harford County calls for the planning phase for Youth's Benefit to begin during the 2014 fiscal year, which also begins next Monday, construction throughout the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years and occupancy in FY2017.
The proposed FY15 Capital Improvement Program, which the board is scheduled to formally adopt in September, includes an $18 million total request, with $6.2 million sought from the state and $11.7 million requested from the county for Youth's Benefit.
It also calls for submitting the Havre de Grace replacement and Joppatowne High School renovation projects to the state for "local planning" approval, just the first step in getting those projects moving.
The top item in the 2015 capital requests is $9.05 million for the second phase of replacing the HVAC system at Fallston High School; $5.05 million is needed from the state and $3.9 million from the county, according to the plan. A similar appropriation appears in the 2014 capital budget the board adopted this winter.
The board also appeared to dash any future consideration of a new elementary school one day being built near Harford Community College, a project county elected officials summarily rejected in 2009.
The future of "Campus Hills Elementary School" was listed as "to be determined" in the facilities plan for next year, which also stated design work is "on hold until construction funding from the County is committed."
Board members, however, voted to remove the project from the plan completely, noting that the county is proceeding with construction of Shucks Regional Park on the site. They then approved the overall facilities plan without a section for Campus Hills. The project is not listed in the proposed 2015 capital plan.
Board member thanks student rep
Board member Thomas Fitzpatrick lauded former student representative Panashe Mutombo, who graduated from Patterson Mill High School earlier this month after serving as the student representative on the board for the 2012-2013 school year.
He described Mutombo as "a very remarkable young man who served us very well and who is a great reflection of the quality of education that one gets in Harford County. He will go places, and as you know, you never can tell where a gentleman of African-American persuasion with a strange-sounding name may end up."
Fitzpatrick has represented the Havre de Grace area on the board since being appointed to his seat by Gov. Martin O'Malley last August.
He said later that he was comparing Mutombo with President Barack Obama, who mentioned in his famed keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 "the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too."
Obama was a state senator from Illinois at the time and would be elected to the U.S. Senate that year. Fitzpatrick said he voted for Obama twice and contributed to his presidential campaign.
"He is very poised, he comes to the meetings prepared, he doesn't miss much," Fitzpatrick said of Mutombo. "He just has a style about him, he has a charisma that reminds me of the president."
Mutombo is reporting to the Coast Guard Academy to begin his studies on Monday.