After more than eleven hundred people signed an online petition calling for a new Lansdowne High School to be built, instead of making renovations to the current facility as Baltimore County plans, the county executive's office responded saying a new building is not possible given budget restraints.
Don Mohler, chief of staff for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Thursday that a new building isn't happening. The Lansdowne renovation is scheduled along with three other high schools, Dulaney, Woodlawn and Patapsco.
"A new high school costs in the vicinity of $100 million," Mohler said. "So clearly the county is not in a position to even consider building four brand new high schools."
Mohler said the county intends to complete every item in a recently published feasibility study for the Lansdowne High renovation. That study lists $31 million for renovations and educational enhancements before fees. The total project cost is $42.3 million, according to schools spokesman Mychael Dickerson.
"There's no need to discuss a new school moving forward," Mohler said. "We're not going to do that."
Since January parents, teachers and students have been pushing for a new building, citing a broad range of issues they feel are too severe to be addressed with repairs and replacements alone. Earlier in the week about 40 people rallied in the rain outside the school.
When the renovation is done, the Lansdowne community will have a building they're proud of, Mohler said. That was the case at Hereford and Pikesville High Schools, he said, both of which were renovated in the past two years.
The county intends to include alternative and non-essential items as well, which would be another $4 million in repairs, according to the Assessment and Feasibility Study Limited Renovation Project Assessment.
Studies on websites disappear
That study was published Feb. 18, but Feb. 24 it was removed from www.bcps.org because of errors. A similar study for Dulaney High School was also removed.
As of 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25, the Lansdowne study has been republished on the site. The Dulaney study was republished Feb. 26.
At the rally and over social media, parents and teachers questioned why parts of the renovation feasibility studies for both Lansdowne and Dulaney high schools were identical.
"We're questioning what was really done, and what is the validity of these reports because it is looking like it's just something to pacify everyone," Lansdowne PTSA secretary Katherine Bloom said Wednesday.
Schools spokesman Mychael Dickerson confirmed on Wednesday that the studies were taken down because of errors.
"Pages from some of the schools were listed on the wrong schools," Dickerson said in an email.
Dickerson also said the Lansdowne information doesn't appear to be impacted by the mistake.
Problems in specific areas, such as a "crack in the southwest stairway of the classroom addition," were repeated in both studies. Both studies refered to a 2001 repair to the structure of a music room due to sinking. In some instances, the text on the pages was the same but the formatting was different, with bullet points or photos added in.
The Lansdowne study was prepared for Baltimore County Public Schools by Rubeling & Associates, a division of engineering firm Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, Inc. The same company was involved with the Dulaney study, but that study was prepared by Baltimore County Public Schools with assistance from Rubeling & Associates.
During the rally Tuesday, Greg Churchill, a history and economics teacher at Lansdowne, said the system shouldn't spend more than $30 million on a renovation when it could go toward a new building.
"I just feel like it's an irresponsible use of the taxpayer's money," Churchill said.
"We appreciate the Lansdowne High School community's engagement. We recognize the condition of Lansdowne High and support the upcoming renovation to it and three other high schools," Dickerson said in an email Feb. 23.
The Lansdowne community has reached out to state representatives with their case for a new school. Democrat Del. Eric Ebersole of Dist. 12, said he is sensitive to the issue and paying attention to it. He has spoken with Baltimore County school officials, he said, though as a state representative he can only influence decisions.
Ebersole said from those discussions, he got the sense that the building's renovation won't be limited.