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Franchot promises more money to build schools

February 28, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot toured Pangborn Elementary School on Tuesday and saw crowded classrooms, a tightly arranged library and a teacher instructing students around a table - in a hallway.

Afterward, he promised school officials more money would be available for their school construction projects.

Pangborn Elementary enrolls about 150 more students than its capacity. There are 11 portable classroom buildings, and a multipurpose room that Franchot observed being used "for way too many purposes."

Construction documents for a new Pangborn school were approved last week by the school board, which hopes to have the school open in 2008. Not quite all of the money for the $25 million project is in place.

Washington County asked for $9.2 million for Pangborn in fiscal year 2008, and Gov. Martin O'Malley included $4.7 million for the school in his budget proposal. The fiscal year begins July 1.

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Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan told Franchot that Pangborn, built in 1955, retained many of its original features.

Passing one of Pangborn's portable classrooms, Franchot remarked that "these things are just unacceptable to us, because they become permanent schools."

When Principal Richard Gehrman pointed out the teacher working with students at the hallway table, Franchot declared "that shouldn't be Maryland's legacy."

Later, Morgan showed Franchot the converted closet where that teacher prepares her lessons.

Franchot promised to act on what he saw.

"I'll go out on a limb and say we will get the money for this school, and then we'll look for more dollars," he said.

He also promised to report to O'Malley on conditions at Pang- born during this morning's Board of Public Works meeting at the statehouse, and again encouraged school officials to work with the county delegation to get more construction money.

Franchot's tour provided a chance to chat with some of his youngest constituents. A group of second-graders told him the makeshift classrooms - and resulting distractions - make it difficult to concentrate.

"And in the summer it gets so hot," one little girl said.

They had lots of questions about what their new school would be like, and Franchot promised it would be air-conditioned. An ardent environmentalist, Franchot told the students that "we're gonna try to make it a green school."

"I want a white school," one of the children replied.

"What shade of green is it gonna be?" another asked.

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