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Study calls for $2.5 billion total in renovations, expansions for all Baltimore County school buildings

A study of construction needs at Baltimore County’s elementary, middle and high schools is calling for $2.5 billion in renovations or expansions for all buildings in the next 15 years.

County board of education members heard a presentation on the study, which was produced for the county and school system by consulting firm CannonDesign. Consultants have recommended a wide range of school projects to improve existing buildings and reduce overcrowding.

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The price tag includes “legacy” projects that are underway and does not require additional revenue increases, officials said.

Consultants previously released an earlier phase of the study that examined construction needs in high school buildings, estimated to cost $1.2 billion. The presentation Tuesday included new projects for elementary and middle school buildings, as well as about $71 million for special or alternative education facilities.

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The county and school system hired CannonDesign to develop construction priorities for a multiyear improvement plan for all schools by assessing capacity concerns, educational equity and the condition of facilities. The study’s recommendations are nonbinding, but will likely influence county officials’ plans moving forward.

Democratic County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a former teacher, said in a statement that every child and educator deserves a modern, safe and supportive learning environment.

“These recommendations from CannonDesign provide a comprehensive, equitable, and fully funded road map to accomplish just that,” Olszewski said Wednesday.

Olszewski said the recommendations will help the county fulfill obligations to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation. The plan includes a contingency for expanding prekindergarten in Baltimore County, which is required under the sweeping educational reform.

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Several schools that were identified for replacement include Red House Run, Summit Park, Bedford, and Deer Park elementary schools, along with Sparrows Point Middle School.

The study does not call for a total rebuild of aging high schools such as Dulaney and Towson. Limited funding to replace or renovate aging buildings has pitted some of the schools against one another as their advocates debate which institution’s needs should be addressed first.

School board member Kathleen Causey expressed concerns Tuesday that those two buildings were not targeted for replacement.

Should officials move forward with all “premium” projects, including the replacement of Dulaney and Towson, consultants cautioned another 86 renovations would be deferred beyond 15 years.

CannonDesign is expected to issue a final report and an estimated timeline for carrying out the projects in September.

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