ANNAPOLIS – They told stories of art teachers on wheels and hallway chemical spills, of leaky schoolroom roofs, of students in portable classrooms.
Eastern Shore representatives made their cases Wednesday to three top state officials in hopes of getting a greater share of millions of dollars in school construction money.
Overcrowding is a major problem, said superintendents from Wicomico and Queen Anne’s counties, who asked the Board of Public Works to fund several renovation and expansion projects.
The board, made up of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, decides which counties will receive approximately half of $138 billion in local school construction money.
“We have used on the Eastern Shore every nook and cranny of our buildings,” said Del. Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico, speaking on behalf of the Wicomico schools.
Wicomico asked for funding to renovate Westside Intermediate, to build a new Salisbury middle school on an existing site and a new science wing for James M. Bennett High School and to begin planning expansion of Pemberton Elementary School.
Most Eastern Shore districts want to renovate old schools rather than build new ones. They reminded the governor that their projects fit into his “Smart Growth” concept, which calls for using existing buildings rather than expanding to suburban or rural areas.
Schools also asked for money to upgrade science labs and wire their computers for the Internet – another goal in the governor’s education plans.
A representative from James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury told the board the school had 10 science teachers split among eight classrooms. The “floating” science teachers must carry their materials from room to room, which has led to chemical spills in the hallways.
Some of the requests were more basic. Superintendent J. Spicer Bell from Dorchester County had just one request – a new roof for Warwick Elementary School.
He argued that the school was vital to its rural community – – which holds YMCA events, computer camps, dance programs and a regional migrant education center there.
“When you invest in a facility like that, it really serves the whole community and not just the children,” he said.
Queen Anne’s County asked for money to expand Queen Anne’s County High School and to renovate the Sudlersville Elementary School, built in 1914.
Superintendent Bernard Sadusky called Sudlersville’s facilities “absolutely inadequate” and pointed out that 16 percent of county students were taught in portable classrooms because of lack of space.
Caroline County officials asked for new science facilities at Colonel Richardson High School and a new roof for Colonel Richardson Middle School. Superintendent R. Allan Gorsuch told the board that in spite of crumbling facilities, teachers at the middle school had raised test scores by more than 10 times the state average.
“With a leaky roof and aging facility, those teachers decided to do something to improve education. We would ask for your support in making it a little drier operation,” he said.
Over $72 million in state school construction money has already been allocated by the Interagency Committee on School Construction, which works with local school systems to decide which projects on their wish lists should be funded.
Wednesday’s appeal session allowed school systems to bring charts and graphs, students and even starfish pins to win consideration for projects that were not funded.
Of funds already allocated to the Eastern shore, 51 percent will pay for new construction, 21 percent for renovations, 14 percent for wiring schools for new technology and 13 percent for upgrading science facilities.
Worcester, Kent, Talbot and Somerset counties did not appeal any funding decisions. -30-