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County Council wrong to criticize new Dulaney High School plan

Governor Hogan tours Dulaney High School as one of his many stops around Baltimore County. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun video)

As the mother of three children in the Baltimore County School system — none of whom go to Dulaney High School — I am extremely disappointed that the Baltimore County Council is criticizing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s decision to replace the aging high school. Some County Council members feel it is fiscally irresponsible to build a replacement for the dilapidated and dangerous high school. But I would counter that it is more fiscally irresponsible to have a high school where brown water flows from the taps. A school where the orchestra pit floods regularly, putting the school foundation and supplies at risk — and possibly fostering mold, which could cause students to develop or exacerbate existing asthma and allergies. I can only conclude that the Baltimore County Council members don't care about Dulaney High School students' safety and quality of education.

If you notice, I have not mentioned overcrowding, teacher-student ratios or shared common spaces — which some people may claim are topics discussed by the privileged. They are not. But I am talking about the fact that the council members and Baltimore County Public Schools are legally, financially and morally responsible for the physical safety of the children in their care. Other examples of the truly dangerous conditions at the high school, include a 54-year-old electrical box that is original to the school. The life expectancy of the box is only 30 years. It is an accident — not to mention a large fiscal expense — waiting to happen. Plumbing pipes at the school burst three times in the first two weeks of school alone. That meant flooded classrooms. Damaged computers. And, inevitably, more mold. Steam pipes burst frequently. The school has an unstable foundation on the 1991 addition. Do you know what happens with unstable foundations? They fall down. A fence around the sports fields became mysteriously electrified. Students and other members of the community were one accidental touch away from being electrocuted on Dulaney's sports fields. If council members are concerned about the optics of replacing Dulaney High School, they should ask themselves about the optics of someone being injured or dying on Dulaney school grounds.

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County Council members can ensure the safety of Dulaney students and teachers by funding a replacement for the dangerously outdated Dulaney High School. Or council members can choose to spend that same money on an inevitable lawsuit — from students, teachers or school visitors who are injured or die on the council's watch. Rather than discussing fiscal responsibility, the council needs to discuss solutions to fulfill their legal and moral responsibility to the county's parents and children. Parents are legally required to send their children to school every day. The council needs to remember that they are legally required to keep those children safe. Any council members who choose to be persuaded by optics and complaints by parents from other communities should ask if those parents are worried about their children's physical safety and education every single day they send their kids to school.

Just to be fair, I will assume that the council members were not aware of the deplorable conditions at Dulaney High School. But now that we know they know, they are responsible for whether or not they protect the children and teachers at Dulaney High School.

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Suzanne Persaud, Towson

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