Truth finally leaks out school roofs not fixed

It still rains in some Harford classrooms -- to the dismay of county lawmakers.

"We thought we had taken care of the roof problems, but we continue to get letters saying, 'Our school has leaks,' and that upsets us," Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson told Harford School Superintendent Ray R. Keech at the council meeting Tuesday night.


"It's hard for us to anticipate voting on new construction of buildings out there because the buildings we have haven't been taken care of," he said.

The school board received about $2.3 million for roof repairs as part of its 1992-1993 operating budget.


But council members, who had assumed the roofs would be repaired within a year, were surprised to learn Tuesday the repairs are being spread out annually through 1994. For example, Roye-Williams Elementary School, where teachers routinely cover their desks with plastic and place buckets in classrooms, is not slated to receive a new roof on its kindergarten classrooms until summer 1994.

Roof repairs are needed at Edgewood, Bel Air and North Harford high schools, at Havre de Grace and Bel Air middle schools and at 10 Harford elementary schools.

Council members were supposed to be considering endorsing two school construction projects at Tuesday's meeting.

They ultimately endorsed paying for an elementary school in Country Walk and an addition to Bel Air Middle School, but not before questioning the superintendent about why roof repairs on older schools won't all be done this year.

Roger C. Niles, an assistant school superintendent, explained that specifications vary for each roof, and it is time-consuming to draft the specifications and put each project out to bid. Repairs are usually done only in the summer because the noise and the smell of tar distracts students, he said.

"I would think rain falling on your head in a classroom is extremely distracting, too, but we manage to work around that," retorted County Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton, R-District A.

Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers' union, urged the council to think about how Harford's schools got into such a state of disrepair.

"The county and country may be in a recession, but our business isn't. Our business is booming, but for four years only Allegheny and Caroline counties have spent less per pupil than we have," Ms. Thomas said.