In a welcome shift, state agrees to help fund a new Talbott Springs Elementary school in Columbia

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

After months of back and forth between school planners for Howard County and the state, a Maryland commission has agreed to help pay for a new $42 million Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia.

The state’s Interagency Commission on School Construction, which reviews and approves public school building projects, had earlier said it would only approve renovations to the 45-year-old building, which it called “the most cost-effective solution.”

The decision angered some parents and community leaders who claimed the project was being shorted because it is in one of Howard’s poorer neighborhoods.

Without a share of state funding, Howard leaders were preparing to pay for the project using county dollars.

The IAC earlier this month received an updated feasibility study from Howard County and changed its stance, according to a letter sent from the commission to the school system.

“A replacement school was shown to be the less costly option to construct and maintain over the life of the facility,” Robert A. Gorrell, executive director of the commission, wrote in a letter to Scott Washington, director of capital planning and construction for Howard schools. “In addition, a multi-phased, occupied renovation/addition project would have a decidedly disruptive impact on the high-needs population of the school.”

The state did not make any of the commission members available on Tuesday to address questions, including what prompted the change.

Slated to open in September 2022, the school will be designed to hold 631 students, have a energy-efficient heating and cooling system, bring natural light into all classrooms and provide a safer student drop off, according to the school system.

The county predicts that 587 students from Talbott Springs and Stevens Forest elementary schools will move into the new building in 2022, Washington previously said. In the revised feasibility study, it includes redistricting students from Stevens Forest, a mile away from Talbott Springs, to the new building.

The new building will be constructed next to the existing building, which will be demolished, according to the school system.

“I am pleased by the IAC decision to support our plans to replace Talbott Springs Elementary School,” schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in a statement released Tuesday. “This has been a true team effort and I thank the county executive and council for their advocacy and for working with the board of education to support funding for this important project."

County Executive Allan Kittleman, in a separate statement, thanked “all who persevered in this effort,” including Martirano and the county school board.

“This is great news for the students, parents, teachers and staff at Talbott Springs Elementary,” Kittleman said.

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