Baltimore schools' $1 billion building campaign planned for everything but furniture

Baltimore schools' $1 billion building campaign planned for everything — but furniture

Baltimore's $1 billion campaign to renovate its schools calls for floor-to-ceiling windows, open-air classrooms, gleaming hallways, and green spaces — all part of a promise to provide students with state-of-the art buildings fit to support a 21st-century education.

But school officials recently realized that their grand plans omitted one small detail: enough money for furniture.

School officials said they have reached an agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which is overseeing some of the renovations, on how to pay for furniture in the nearly two dozen schools to be rebuilt over a 10-year period.

Originally, budgeting for the rebuilding plan included about 2 percent of each project's cost for furnishing the schools — a placeholder estimate meant to be reconciled later — but officials recently determined it would cost about 10 percent, said Mignon Anthony, executive director of the 21st Century Buildings Program.

"It was not realistic," Anthony said. "This has been the source of a family squabble of sorts because the 2 percent was just put in there in hopes that we'd be able to afford it later on down the road — and we can't."

To furnish the buildings, Anthony said, the school system has begun identifying ways to cut costs in each project and use the savings for furniture.

For example, in the first two schools that are under construction — Fort Worthington and Frederick elementary schools, the district has chosen to install all-purpose gym floors instead of wooden ones, for a savings up to $300,000 each.

Officials also will look to save on cosmetic work, such as lighting and landscaping, to generate money for furniture for other renovated buildings.

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