ANNAPOLIS – Michael Rosen, 17, found the best excuse to skip school and American Government class Wednesday.
“I can tell my American Government teacher that I came to speak to Gov. Glendening, but I don’t think he’ll believe me,” said Rosen, a senior at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air. “Governor, can I get you to sign my slip for me?”
Parris N. Glendening signed Rosen’s slip.
Rosen, student representative on the Harford County Board of Education, presented his county’s appeal to the Board of Public Works for additional school construction funds.
Harford and Baltimore counties were among 19 jurisidictions appealing the recommendations to the board by the Interagency Committee, which works with localities to determine school construction priorities.
Harford County wants an additional $4 million for renovations, new construction and planning approvals for old and new schools. The committee has already recommended $2 million for Harford, the 10th highest total among the 24 school districts.
Harford still wants funds for the following:
* modernizing Forest Hill Elementary School
* planning a new Route #543/Creswell Area Elementary School
* modernizing Bakerfield Elementary School in Aberdeen
* modernizing Edgewood Elementary School
* modernizing Abingdon Middle School
* replacing air conditioning and heat at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air
* replacing the roofs at Harford Technical High School and Edgewood Middle School
Dr. Jeff Grotsky, superintendent of Harford County, said Harford’s schools need the projects requested in order to provide a safe school environment and a reasonable class size.
“In your sunset years,” Grotsky said to the board, “you can say you cared, shared and dared for Harford County.”
The Interagency Committee received $310 million in statewide requests in October. It approved $72 million, of which 78 percent went for projects at existing schools. Glendening has made available an additional $65.9 million, and it was these funds that were at stake Wednesday.
Baltimore County officials defended their need for additional funds by citing the increased demands on its schools. The county wants $32 million beyond the committee’s allocation of $6 million, the fourth highest total in the state.
Dr. Anthony Marchione, Baltimore County’s superintendent, said this was the 10th consecutive year that the county had shown growth and it is expected to continue growing in the next seven years.
“Baltimore County’s elementary schools have increased capacity by 21,500 [students] since 1993,” Marchione said. “Middle schools have increased by 6,500 students since 1987, and High schools have increased by 5,400 since 1990. In September 1996 there were 104,469 students in Baltimore County.”
Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said the county is borrowing $88 million for all types of projects.
“Every project comes within the governor’s Smart Growth initiative to conserve the older communities first,” Ruppersberger said, referring to Glendening’s plan to control suburban sprawl. “We’re spending over $1 million for a comprehensive audit of existing facilities to find their needs.”
In agreement, Sen. Michael Collins, who co-chairs Baltimore County’s General Assembly delegation, said Smart Growth would have limited success if the schools are not improved.
“As a former teacher, I know that young families need to be confident that older schools are as good as new schools,” Collins said. “This is a historic opportunity to do good things for Baltimore County. Our legacy will be the Smart Growth initiative and community conservation.”
The counties will learn the fate of their requests in May, said Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Glendening. -30-