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Schools seeking county's surplus

November 19, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to ask the Washington County Commissioners if the county's surplus funds could be put toward school construction projects.

During a work session Tuesday afternoon, Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management, told the School Board that it needs to make the county aware that school construction and renovation projects must be a priority in light of the county's growing population, the state's decreased funding for school construction projects and the age of the county's schools.

School Board Member Roxanne R. Ober suggested asking the county to give the School Board its surplus, meaning its excess funds, on top of giving the school system $10 million over the next few years for its Capital Improvement Plan, a nearly $5 million increase over last year's allocation.

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School Board members discussed holding a town meeting to educate community members about the school system's funding needs, but no date was set.

McGee said schools were built in the 1950s and 1970s to address population booms, but the school system has not built schools since the 1990s.

He said the school system, when compared to other counties in the state, does not adequately build or renovate schools according to enrollment needs.

McGee said the school system has kept up with boiler and roof replacements, but it falls behind in its response to fixing electric heating and cooling units, and in renovating schools that lack air-conditioning and sprinkler systems.

Schools that are crowded and those that are without air-conditioning or sprinkler systems are eligible for Public Schools Construction Funds, which have been cut back this year by about $200 million, he said, and he expects the amount to remain the same this year.

He plans to present the state with a renovation and building addition schedule that would place the completion of Salem Avenue Elementary School's renovation at the top of the list, followed by the construction of a new Maugansville Elementary School, which would consolidate that school with Conococheague Elementary School.

He said if the School Board gets $10 million a year from the County Commissioners for school construction, Maugansville Elementary could be started in 2005, which would be the same year an addition to Fountain Rock Elementary School could be started.

McGee said starting renovations at Pangborn and starting the School for the Arts could happen the following year. The construction of an Eastern Primary School, which would help alleviate crowding at Eastern Elementary School, could start the following year, he said.

But if the school system does not get the proposed $10 million from the county, significantly fewer projects could be completed in the same time frame, he said.

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