Schools to make pleas for state aid

THE BALTIMORE SUN

School district and local government leaders from around the state will appear at the Board of Public Works meeting today to ask for more money for school construction, an annual event commonly known as the "beg-a-thon."

The state Interagency Committee on School Construction has received $590.6 million in requests and has recommended how to distribute $80 million so far.

In Baltimore, school officials have been told to expect about 14 percent, or 4.7 million, of the $33.1 million they are seeking. In Baltimore County, officials have been told to expect about $5.1 million, or about 7 percent of their $70.4 million request.

Officials from the city and county said they will try to convey the urgency of the repairs and renovations needed in their schools, which are among the oldest in Maryland.

One of the city's priorities is to win approval to begin planning the renovation of Violetville Elementary/Middle School, a Southwest Baltimore school built in 1930 and last renovated three decades ago. Officials also will be asking for more money for partially funded projects at the School for the Arts and Carver Vocational-Technical High, and for money to install new boilers, air conditioners and doors and windows at 10 schools.

"Over the last four years, we've only received less than 30 percent of the amount that we've requested," said Carlton G. Epps, the system's chief operating officer. "It's quite a disparity between the need ... and what we've been provided."

School officials have calculated that it would take $1 billion to bring the city's schools up to state standards.

"The problems become more catastrophic the longer that repairs are delayed," Epps said.

In Baltimore County, officials are trying to balance the competing needs of building new schools to accommodate growth and repairing old ones that are in need of major repairs.

The district is set to receive some money for the construction of Woodholme Elementary and Windsor Mill Middle schools and for renovations at Arbutus Middle School. Officials say that renovations are necessary at several other middle schools and roof replacements are needed at 11 schools.

Though the Baltimore County government has put forward a lot of money for school construction, "without the state portion, we're really sunk," said school board president James R. Sasiadek.

Local governments have been banding together to ask state officials to increase funding of school construction by more than $1 billion over the next several years.

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