Air conditioning for area schools topic of advisory council meeting

While the recent weather has taken a decidedly cooler direction, the difficulties faced by area students in schools without air conditioning was the main concern voiced by a parent speaking at last night's meeting of the Southwest Educational Advisory Council.

Jomichael Latta, whose daughter attends Westowne Elementary School, was one of three speakers before a group of about 10 at the meeting, held at Catonsville High School.

He said the county's School Board should act so that the school on Harlem Lane, which was built in 1951, is no longer among the county's 47 schools that are not air conditioned.

As a truck driver, he said, he knows the effects of trying to maintain concentration during hot weather.

"You lose focus. You get lazy. You get aggressive," he said during his three-minute presentation at the meeting.

He closed his remarks by noting that Del. James Malone, who represents District 12A that includes Arbutus and Catonsville and made an appearance at last night's meeting, said Westowne is on the list to have air conditioning installed.

Johnnycake Elementary School was among the schools scheduled to have air conditioning installed in the 2010 county budget and the county completed the project in January.

"I want to see that in writing," Latta said.

Two Woodlawn High School parents also spoke to the group, which included a representative of Baltimore County Public Schools and Mike Bowler, a member of the School Board from the 1st Councilmanic District.

Both said the school on Woodlawn Drive, which was built in 1961 and is also on the list of those schools without air conditioning, has a long list of needs, ranging from broken vending machines to a lack of high-tech teaching equipment

Patricia Dodson, the president of the school's PTSA, noted textbooks from 1999 are still in use at the school.

"That should not be happening," she said.

Last night's meeting was held to hear recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2015 capital budget and the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget for county schools.

Capital budget items include air conditioning and repairs to school parking lots while operating budgets include textbooks, teachers' salaries and office supplies.

The Southwest Education Advisory Council is one of the five councils that act as liaisons between county residents and the School Board. The councils meet monthly. The southwest council's next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28.

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