The state's powerful Board of Public Works reinstated $10 million of school construction money for Baltimore City and Baltimore County Wednesday, after the school districts presented plans to install air conditioning in overheated classrooms.
The state's Board of Public Works reinstated $10 million of school construction money for Baltimore city and Baltimore County Wednesday, after the school districts presented plans to install air conditioning in overheated classrooms.
The city plans to cool all of its schools within five years, and the county has plans to install air conditioning within four years.
"We really appreciate the effort," Gov. Larry Hogan told city schools CEO Sonja Santelises.
But Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot were less enthusiastic about Baltimore County's plans.
"I have some healthy skepticism … I think the jury is still out," Franchot told county schools Superintendent Dallas Dance.
"I think it was a mistake in the first place," Kopp said.
Hogan, a Republican, and Franchot, a Democrat, have repeatedly berated the city and county for their slow progress in installing air conditioning. Baltimore city and Baltimore County are the only school districts in the state with a large number of schools without air conditioning.
Franchot said he believes the city's and county's improved plans for adding air conditioning would not have happened if not for his and the governor's advocacy at Board of Public Works meetings.
Hogan and Franchot have pushed for the use of portable air conditioners, but Baltimore County has balked, preferring to spend money on permanent central air conditioning. Installing central air takes longer than installing portable units.
After the meeting, Santelises said she was pleased to receive the $5 million that had been withheld.
"The real win is for the city, and that we now have an example of what it means to come together around something," she said.
Santelises said the school system will need to figure out which projects to spend the money on.
"The release of this $5 million will allow us to get some vital infrastructure projects done," she said. "It's a big deal."
Baltimore County, likewise, will need to evaluate how to spend the money that is being released, Dance said. He said he plans to return to the Board of Public Works to offer more details on how the final 13 schools will get air conditioning, in hopes of getting the rest of the money that was withheld.