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County school board avoids spending to upgrade aging facilities

A Sun article on possible uses for gambling revenue reported that the Baltimore County Public Schools estimated the cost of air conditioning its school buildings at $600 million ("Lawmakers who backed gambling look to collect for local interests,"" Nov. 20).

This figure has never been verified by specific estimates for the schools that do not have it. The number seems wildly inflated, and BCPS should be required to prove its accuracy through estimates from independent contractors, not from the Department of Physical Facilities.

The same department denied there were problems at Ridgely Middle School and tried to obstruct a meeting there with state Sen. James Brochin when the school was unbearably hot. At a recent Board of Education meeting, it made vague proposals to clean filters and check ventilation systems in an attempt to make slight improvements in schools without air conditioning.

As one parent said after hearing the third report in four years on air conditioning, "a drop of 5 to 10 degrees in my child's classroom, when it is 105 degrees, means nothing."

The eagerness of the Board of Education to avoid the expense updating and repairing our decaying infrastructure has trumped its understanding that spending now will save money in the future and spare thousands of children and teachers years of misery, illness and lost educational time.

The board remains unwilling to demand verifiable figures from Physical Facilities for every school without air conditioning. Any business that provided estimates varying by millions of dollars for every building under consideration would be laughed out of the room.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Towson

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