Havre de Grace High supporters urged to keep up the pressure for a new school

Supporters of a new Havre de Grace High School kept up their efforts this week to involve the public and to lobby county and school officials in advance of Monday's school board meeting where new school projects are likely to be discussed by the board.

In his report during Tuesday's Havre de Grace City Council meeting, Councilman David Glenn asked residents to attend the Harford County Board of Education meeting in Bel Air and to continue advocating for a new Havre de Grace High School.

Meanwhile, in Bel Air Tuesday night, the president of Havre de Grace High School's student government urged members of the Harford County Council to support funding for the new high school.

Havre de Grace High supporters were a big part of a recent public hearing held by the school board that invited people from communities around the county to speak about what they hope to see in the school system's fiscal year 2014 capital improvement plan.

Many of those who attended the previous hearing wore T-shirts in the school's maroon and white colors and sported buttons saying, "It's Our Turn."

Residents from Fallston attended the same session to advocate for a new Youth's Benefit Elementary School in their community.

"We need people to show up in maroon and white because we want to continue to blow them [the school board] away," Glenn said Tuesday.

City Council President Randy Craig, who attended the public hearing with Glenn, added that it's important for people to attend the board of education meeting and "speak your mind, speak from your heart."

Students at Havre de Grace High School clearly need a new building, as conditions at the school are very crowded, Student Government President Jillian Larrimore told the county council during a brief appearance during the council's legislative session Tuesday.

Larrimore said hallways fill with students during class changes, making it hard for them to get to their lockers, while students also have to wait in long lines in the cafeteria during lunchtime.

The classrooms have an "uneven climate," with some feeling like "a sauna" and others are too cold, she said.

Larrimore also said "some of our resources are ancient," adding students regularly say they are embarrassed by the school and call it "trash" compared to other, newer buildings in the county.

A replacement building for Havre de Grace High School is expected to cost between $80 million and $90 million, based on the costs of the three-year-old replacement buildings at Bel Air and Edgewood high schools, which are larger than what the new HHS would be.

Although the future capital budget is expected to be on Monday's school board meeting agenda, no final action on the capital budget, which will include setting priorities for individual projects like the new HHS, is expected until later in September.

Monday's school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the A. A. Roberty building at 102 S. Hickory Ave. in Bel Air.

Because the new HHS project has the support of Harford County Executive David Craig, a Havre de Grace native and HHS grad, who has made it his top school construction priority, the school board is expected to give some weight to that support, even though until a year ago the board wasn't even considering the project.

Most of the school board's prior attention had been directed to the need to replace buildings at Youth's Benefit, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary in Bel Air and William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon, as well as building a new John Archer School on the Bel Air Middle School campus.

Craig has pledged to fund the Youth's Benefit replacement and the new HHS building, which would be built on property between James Harris Stadium and Havre de Grace Middle School, in the 2014 county capital budget. He has also said he would place the two other elementary school projects into the 2015 budget, the final one that will be adopted before he leaves office.

Though school officials have the final say in setting school construction priorities, they don't have the final say on local funding, which typically provides 65 percent of the cost of a new school. That power rests with the county executive and the county council, who to this point haven't been in agreement about future school construction needs, which is why Havre de Grace High supporters have been urged by the county executive and others in his camp to ramp up the public show of support for their project.

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