Baltimore County Now
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.
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,
Interagency Committee on School Construction Letter
View the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) letter. (PDF)
Blake Lubinski, Communications Intern, Baltimore County Public Schools
Great news! You made the team – Team BCPS!
Team BCPS includes ALL current, former and future students, teachers, staff, parents, neighbors, volunteers and supporters of Baltimore County Public Schools – everyone whose lives are impacted by the County school system.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 15, 2014, BCPS will launch “We Are Team BCPS,” a new campaign intended to promote pride in and encourage engagement with the school system. Unfolding over the year, the campaign will include multiple opportunities for community involvement.
Among the opportunities is Team BCPS Day. Scheduled for the campaign’s launch date, the day calls upon the community to dress in “BCPS blue” (which is any shade of blue) and submit photographs and videos. The best photographs and videos received through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BaltCoPS) and Twitter (@BaltCoPS, #BCPSblue) will appear on the BCPS website, www.bcps.org, and Facebook page.
A second opportunity for involvement is through story-sharing. BCPS invites Team members to share their stories of the school system’s impact on their lives through short paragraphs and videos. Select testimonials submitted to email@example.com will appear on BCPS-TV, the BCPS “Deliberate Excellence” blog, the BCPS Facebook page or in the weekly BCPS e-newsletter.
The community may become involved online, as well. In addition to the debut of a new “We Are Team BCPS” page offering opportunities to get involved with the school system, the BCPS alumni webpage allows former students to relate their high-quality BCPS education to their accomplishments in their respective professions. Graduates may submit high-resolution photographs and brief profiles, including the name of their alma mater, a short description of major achievements/activities and thoughts about BCPS’s role in preparing them for the future, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any nominations for inclusion on the alumni page must include direct contact information for the nominee.
Visit the BCPS website to learn more. And don’t forget to go blue. Team BCPS is bound to score on January 15!
Baltimore County Executive
What will the schools of tomorrow look like? I would guess that each student would use smartphones and tablets in class, with textbooks relegated to a study of ancient history. The entire school building would be wi-fi enabled, allowing students to access the Internet for problem solving and research at a moment's whim. Why, I think that students and teachers could interact via Twitter feeds, both inside the classroom and even at home!
Well, guess what? The world of tomorrow land is here today - at the very special Patapsco High School Center for the Arts in Dundalk. Earlier this month I joined School Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance for a tour of Patapsco where we met with the students and faculty for a jaw-dropping view of how technology can be used as an integral part of the learning process.
Principal Ryan Imbriale has created an amazing community of learners in eastern Baltimore County. It is no wonder that Dr. Dance is eager to spread this magic system wide. What happens at Patapsco? Well, here is just a small sample of what took place the day I visited.
It is a school where the principal's daily update isn't done over a traditional public address system, but on the internet via a You Tube video that is also available to parents. It is a school where students are using a variety of social media to enhance learning. It is a school where students are encouraged to bring smart phones and tablets to school so that they may be used as part of the learning process. Classroom Twitter feeds are displayed on white boards encouraging students to react to classroom discussions immediately. In Spanish class, the Spanish tweets were being posted fast and furiously. In science labs, students were using their phones to connect to links to QR codes posted around the room leading to problems that must be solved. Students worked in groups, actively engaging and supporting one another to solve these complex problems. Teachers worked hand-in-hand with students as guides in the learning process.
As my staff would tell you, I haven't been able to stop talking about the teachers and students at Patapsco. I am so excited about what is taking place there and even more excited that Dr. Dance firmly believes that this type of instruction can become the model for Baltimore County. I look forward to making that journey together.