The president of the Anne Arundel County school board last night called on the state to spend $250 million a year for the next five years to fix school buildings in disrepair across Maryland.
"The problem is not new schools, and year-round schooling is not the panacea. The problem is infrastructure. Everybody's missing the point," Thomas Twombly, president of the Board of Education, said last night.
Maryland will have about $80 million for construction projects to divide among the state's 24 school districts.
In Anne Arundel this year, Mr. Twombly noted, the county and state are spending money to build new Solley and Meade elementary schools.
"Those are replacement schools. The existing facilities are so deteriorated that it's simpler and more cost-effective to knock them down and start over," he said.
In Baltimore City, he said, some elementary schools are more than 50 years old. Montgomery and Prince George's counties face similar problems with deteriorating older buildings, he added.
"The facilities will only deteriorate further unless we stop it," Mr. Twombly said. "Year-round schools will not solve that problem."
Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs and a candidate for the House of Delegates, agreed with Mr. Twombly that the county has a long list of schools in urgent need of repair.
"Park Elementary, Jacobsville, Lake Shore and Southshore all need renovation," Mrs. Roeding said. "I think the state and the county definitely need to spend more money on maintenance."
To pay for renovation and construction of schools, Mr. Twombly wants to use money from the state's lottery program.
"The lottery was originally supposed to be a way to benefit education. Where's the money?" he asked. "The money got diverted."
Mr. Twombly's remarks came in response to a presentation at last night's school board meeting by parents whose children attend schools that feed into Chesapeake High School.
Playing on the analogy of a sinking lifeboat made this month by acting school Superintendent Carol S. Parham, the parents gave all eight board members and Dr. Parham life preservers.