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School board takes no vote on Dulaney High renovation, rekindling hopes for a new school

School board takes no vote on Dulaney High renovation, rekindling hopes for a new school

The county school board Tuesday night set the stage to reopen discussions about building a new Dulaney High School rather than doing a $40 million renovation that some in the community have argued would be inadequate.

Board members were considering four contracts to renovate Dulaney, Woodlawn, Patapsco and Lansdowne high schools as part of the county's $1.3 billion, multiyear plan to modernize older buildings.

Before the meeting, several dozen Dulaney High School parents and students rallied in the parking lot, saying the scope of the proposed renovation wasn't sufficient to meet the school's needs.

After extended discussions, the board members did not make a motion to vote on a renovation contract for Dulaney, effectively rejecting the renovation project.

Supporters of a new school, who had packed the meeting, cheered.

Yara Cheikh, a Dulaney High School parent who was opposed to renovation as planned, said the parents will now "gear up" and examine the feasibility of a larger project that will meet the needs of the school.

"A replacement school makes sense," she said.

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, said in a statement after the meeting that a new school simply will not be possible.

"As much as we would like, we simply cannot afford a new Dulaney High School at a cost of $135 million as opposed to a $40 million comprehensive renovation," Kobler said.

Kobler said the funds from the Dulaney project will be used to move up the schedule for remaining elementary school construction projects in the county.

Dulaney High opened in 1964 and today has1,828 students, which is below its capacity of 1,984. It is one of the lowest-rated high school facilities in the county, according to a 2014 facilities audit, which found issues with the school's lighting, structure and lack of air conditioning, among other problems.

The board allowed school officials to move ahead with two projects, the renovation of Woodlawn and Patapsco high schools, authorizing a construction contract of $37.8 million for Woodlawn and $32.4 million for Patapsco.

The board did not authorize a $33.9 million contract to renovate Lansdowne High School. Instead, board member Nick Stewart, who represents the area, has asked the school system to revisit the scope of the project, which some Lansdowne parents have said is insufficient.

Stewart said he would like to ensure that the renovation is "Pikesville-quality," referring to a comprehensive renovation completed at Pikesville High School in 2016 which is considered a standard for quality renovations.

That amendment, to reanalyze the scope of the project, was approved by a split vote. Once the scope of the project has been reconsidered, the project would be rebid, and come before the board again.

All four renovation projects were a part of Baltimore County's Schools for Our Future initiative, a $1.3 billion plan to modernize county schools.

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