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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: baltimore county public schools

bus safety posterSchool Bus Safety Week is October 19 to 23

It’s up to all of us to make sure our children are safe getting on and off the school bus.

October is School Bus Safety month. From October 19 to 23, public safety officials focus on the importance of laws and regulations designed to keep kids who ride buses safe.

The theme of this year’s campaign “Be smart, be seen, I wait in a safe place” addresses the children’s role in staying safe while stressing that the drivers must be vigilant.

Traffic laws require drivers to come to a full stop when a school bus stops with lights flashing and the stop arm extended. Drivers can’t pull ahead until the bus gives the “okay” by cancelling the lights and pulling back the stop arm.

Drivers' Penalties

Although motorists may be on the other side of the street from the bus, they must stop unless there is a physical barrier between the two lanes. Children will cross the street after getting off the bus. The same holds true when children are boarding buses. Children are not paying attention to motorists. They are worried about getting to and on the bus in time. It is the motorist’s responsibility to stop and yield to bus riders.

There are penalties for the drivers who disregard the law and put children at risk. Drivers who pass a school bus while the lights are flashing and the stop arm extended could receive a $570 fine and three points. For motorists who stop and proceed before the bus lights have stopped, the fine is $570 and two points. Drivers who fail to stop and cause an accident may face additional charges.

Observe School Bus Safety Week by stopping when bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended. Our children depend on us for their safety.

Louise Rogers-Feher
Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

Proposal Would Air Condition and Eliminate Overcrowding in Every School by 2021; 2019 if State Accelerates Funding

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, School Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance, local and state legislators announced this morning a delineated plan to air condition and eliminate overcrowding in every remaining County school.

The plan is projected to be completed by 2021, or even by 2019 if State officials accelerate funding for air conditioning projects in Baltimore County. The revised proposal of the County’s ongoing “Schools for Our Future” initiative represents an historic commitment of $1.3 billion, 69 percent funded by the County, and 31 percent requested from the State. The County has budgeted 50 percent more for school construction and renovation over the next five years an increase from $100 million to $150 million. 

“If the State can accelerate its customary match of County dollars for air conditioning,” said Kamenetz, “every Baltimore County school will have air conditioning in place by 2019, two years earlier than without the accelerated State match. In less than five years we’ve increased the number of schools with air conditioning in the County from 48 percent to 85 percent. While that is very gratifying, it is time to finish the job. I look forward to working with Dr. Dance, the Board of Education, County Council and State delegation to get Governor Hogan’s support of this effort.”

“While significant progress has been made to modernize all of our schools, I want to sincerely thank the County Executive and his team for ensuring that all schools within our County have comfortable learning environments, by proposing a plan to accelerate providing air conditioning to all schools,” said Dance.

“The collaboration between the County Executive, County Council, state legislators and our Board of Education to not only put air conditioning in our schools, but to also modernize our schools to accommodate enrollment increases, shows a strong partnership and commitment to all our students and families.”

“I have been fighting to get every school in the County air conditioned since the day I was elected,” said Council Chair Cathy Bevins. “I am delighted that County Executive Kamenetz is moving forward with a plan that would complete the work by 2019. I will work with the County Council and our State delegation to do whatever it takes to secure the State funding necessary to match Baltimore County’s accelerated plan.”

“The General Assembly delegation of Baltimore County looks forward to working with the Governor to advance our collective priorities for the good of our schoolchildren,” said Senator Delores Kelley.

“Having already written to Governor Hogan asking for more funding, I believe the Baltimore County administration and Superintendent’s plan sets the table for providing the funding for what the County needs for our schools,” said 42nd District Delegate Steve Lafferty, who chairs the County’s delegation.

View a detailed schedule (PDF) for completion of air conditioning at all remaining County schools without air.

Letter from the County Executive

The County Executive emailed the following letter to every principal and PTA president in the County this afternoon.

Dear Principal and PTA President,

First of all, I hope that you have had an excellent beginning to the new school year. Thank you for all that you do each and every day for our students. Team BCPS makes us all very proud.

Over the past few weeks, a number of questions have been raised about the current status of the County’s effort to complete air conditioning projects. Please feel free to share this important information with your school community.

When I began my term in office five years ago, I inherited a twin dilemma of aging schools and rising enrollment. Eighty percent of our schools were more than 40 years old, with just 48 percent air conditioned. We embarked on a record $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future program to eliminate all current and projected overcrowding, and modernize our schools with air conditioning, technology and public safety improvements. This commitment increases by 50 percent the amount of bond funding that we have previously allocated for school construction.

Our efforts so far are impressive. So far, we have funded seven new schools and eleven additions, and with the current funding in place, the number of air conditioned schools has increased from 48 percent to 85 percent.

With current levels of funding, we can finish the job by 2021, with the County putting in $2 for every $1 provided by the State.

If the State were to match us dollar for dollar, we can get the job done even sooner.

As we move forward, Dr. Dance and I will be working with the County Council and our State delegation to secure accelerated State funding which would allow us to complete the remaining projects even sooner than currently programmed. I will keep you apprised of our progress.

The schools for our furture campaign involves a $1.3 billion investment from 2011 to 2021.

In 2011, only 48 percent of schools were air conditioned. In 2015, that number is 85 percent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it possible to complete all of the remaining schools prior to 2021?

A: Yes. At the present time, Baltimore County contributes $2 for every $1 of State funding for total school construction and renovation. We believe the State should accelerate its funding for air conditioning, which would allow Baltimore County to expedite the completion schedule.

Q: Is it possible to install window air conditioners while waiting for these projects to be completed?

A: The Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) prohibits State funding for window units in schools, finding that window units are not as energy efficient as central air, requires a higher level of maintenance, and would delay for 15 years any State contribution toward central air. 

Moreover, given the deteriorating condition of the remaining schools in question, window air conditioners do not appear to be a wise choice for Baltimore County. Aging electrical wiring will not accommodate the electrical needs of window units and would require hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement electrical upgrades for a very short-term, “band aid” approach.

There are other issues as well. For example, new schools for both Westowne and Catonsville Elementary are currently under construction and will open for students in August 2016. In June 2015, there were four days of school where temperatures exceeded 90 degrees. It would make no sense to upgrade the electrical systems in those schools, install window units for four days and then demolish those same schools a few weeks later. That would simply be fiscally irresponsible.

Q: Didn’t Anne Arundel County successfully install window units?

A: In 2002, Anne Arundel County installed window units in 36 schools as a stop-gap measure before proceeding with installation of central air. Today, 13 years later, 15 schools in Anne Arundel County still have window units. The installation of window units only served to delay the central air installation, costing taxpayers more than if they had just installed central air initially. Baltimore County’s Schools for Our Future program encompasses more than just central air; it also includes systemic upgrades for infrastructure.

Completion Date Schedule

I have attached a schedule showing completion dates (PDF) for all of the remaining schools. While I recognize that every school community would like to be first on the list, I know that people understand that there must be a process in place to move forward with funding. The list was developed by the school system using a variety of factors: overcrowding needs, Mechanical, Engineering and Plumbing Assessments (MEC), identifying the least costly schools on the front end in order to complete as many schools as possible, geographic distribution, and the more complicated need for replacement schools and renovations that also consider capacity.

Video Detailing Schools for Our Future

Please visit Baltimore County’s YouTube page to view and share the “Schools for Our Future" video.

I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions. Working together, we will not rest until 100 percent of our schools are air conditioned. It is what our students and teachers deserve.

Very truly yours,

Kevin Kamenetz

Interagency Committee on School Construction Letter

View the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) letter. (PDF)

Program Airing on BCTV Cable 25 and Available Online

The fall edition of smARTS, the Baltimore County arts and culture television program, is now airing on Baltimore County cable channel 25. Featured segments include:

  • Host Carolyn Black-Sotir speaks with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz about regional arts and our quality of life.
  • Explore a dynamic exhibit about unaccompanied youth from Latin America who are now living with their families in Maryland.
  • Meet a chalk artist, the orchestra of the Greenspring Valley Orchestra, a Gershwin singer, and a volunteer who has turned her artistic passion into support for children’s theatre.
  • Discover artistic gift ideas for the holidays.

smARTS airs Thursdays and Fridays, 7 to 7:30 p.m. and Tuesdays 11:30 a.m. to noon on Baltimore County cable channel 25.

smARTS is a production of the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Baltimore County Public Schools and BCPS-TV.

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