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Talbott Springs Elementary replacement project needs to begin four months sooner than planned, official says

Construction on the replacement Talbott Springs Elementary School needs to start four months ahead of schedule due to existing water and gas lines that need to be relocated, a Howard schools official said this week.

Work needs to begin in June, instead of October, to allow for the lines to be moved without disrupting classroom time, Dan Lubley, acting director of capital planning and construction, announced at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

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The school board unanimously approved a design development report that Lubley presented Thursday for the Columbia school project.

The project is set to build a new two-story building with 587 seats, increasing from the current 377; an outdoor classroom; a new bus loop; stormwater management; and a four-pipe chilled water and heating system. The first floor will house pre-kindergarten through first grade, and the second floor will be for second through fifth grades.

Talbott Springs is scheduled to be completed December 2022.

In December, after the fate of Talbott Springs and a renovation/addition project at Hammond High hung on by a thread for months, the school board voted to put the projects, along with the opening of the county’s 13th high school in Jessup in September 2023, on track in the school system’s annual capital budget.

The Columbia projects, which have been delayed for nearly a decade, were recommended to be pushed out again due to anticipated capital funding from the county.

County Executive Calvin Ball wrote a letter on Tuesday to the Interagency Commission on School Construction, which reviews and approves public school building projects, stressing the “urgency and need” for state funding to be provided for both the Talbott Springs and Hammond High School projects.

“Both projects will address critical structural issues that are barriers to the effective education of hundreds of students in the county,” the Democrat wrote.

Howard delegation members from District 13 sent a letter to the commission Jan. 10, requesting the state does “whatever it takes to make sure that the [projects] … receive the state funding needed to move forward this year and to remain on schedule.

“These two high priority projects in our district are urgently needed to address capacity needs as well as adverse conditions that impact the education and welfare of our students,” the letter reads.

State Sen. Guy Guzone and Dels. Vanessa Atterbeary, Shane Pendergrass and Jen Terrasa, all Democrats, sent the letter.

With each project the commission tallies up the construction costs and deems what is eligible for state support. For Howard, the state funds 53% of construction costs, leaving the rest to the county. Ineligible costs include design, furniture and equipment.

As the elected officials advocate for state funding, there has been back and forth between county and school system officials concerning the local funding for the two projects.

Ball sent a letter to the school board in November, stating the $50 million to $54 million of anticipated annual county capital funding “is more than sufficient” to keep Talbott Springs, Hammond High and high school 13 on line for “the foreseeable future.”

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However, schools Superintendent Michael Martirano wrote otherwise in a December school board memo.

“The funding of $50-$54M [million] annually for five years is not enough to support the construction of all three projects simultaneously,” Martirano wrote.

Community advocates for Talbott Springs and Hammond High have repeatedly said they will believe the projects are a reality when shovels are in the ground.

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