Patuxent Valley parents express concern, need for renovations

With the redistricting process in full swing, Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup could face significant change in its student population, with more than 280 students possibly leaving for other schools and almost 250 coming in from nearby Murray Hill Middle.

A need for long overdue renovations, not the redistricting process, however, drew parents to a community meeting last week at Patuxent Valley.

The school was supposed to be renovated five years ago, said former PTA President Nancy McClanahan, but the system's focus shifted to Mt. Hebron High School, which was plagued by chronic plumbing problems. Mt. Hebron received the construction funds instead, and Patuxent Valley, built in 1989, still hasn't been renovated.

"We got bumped, which we should have been, because of the issues at Hebron," McClanahan said. "But we've got leaking roofs; there's a bathroom that doesn't work. There's just a lot that needs to be fixed. It needs to happen."

Chief among the improvements would be moving the main office — currently on the second floor — to the first, in order to be at the entrance of the school.

"This is more than, 'We don't like the color,'" McClanahan said. "It's not cosmetic needs; it's significant, and we want our voice heard."

Concern reached a peak last month when the school system's chief facilities operator, Ken Roey, said during a board meeting on the fiscal 2015 budget that renovations at one of three schools — Swansfield Elementary, Patuxent Valley or Wilde Lake Middle School — might have to be deferred because of lack of funding. That was during a public hearing, work session and approval of the $94.6 million capital budget request for fiscal 2015 that included a $12.4 million request for Patuxent Valley for a project ultimately expected to cost $23.9 million. A little more than $4 million for Patuxent Valley was requested from the state this year.

At the Oct. 23 meeting, with about 50 parents in attendance, Roey said there was a "pretty good chance" the school system would receive funding for renovations at the Jessup school.

"We have to have the [renovation] designs submitted to the state by Nov. 1 to be considered for funding in the first round," Roey said. "We're not going to make that deadline, but we've talked to the state and they're open to looking at the submission once it comes in and possible fund it in a later round. It's not a guarantee."

The state could chose to fund the Patuxent Valley renovation in April, Roey said, and the money is "very crucial" to starting construction on time. If funds are approved, Roey said, work at Patuxent Valley would start in early 2015 and be completed for the start of school in 2017.

The community meeting served as an opportunity to be walked through the multiple pieces of the budget process, and for the parents to have their voices heard.

"After this, I feel like we are a priority to them," said Patuxent Valley PTA President Jennifer Ransaw Smith. "We're going to do everything we can to get state funding, and we know it's time. We just didn't want to be overlooked."

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