ANNAPOLIS – Clear Spring Elementary Principal Jill Burkhart said her Washington County school is still a beautiful building, but it no longer meets the needs of its students.
The 1950s-era school still has the original plumbing and lacks a gymnasium and space for special programs, she said. The music teacher operates out of a “4-by-6 closet” and the school is in line to get its fourth portable classroom soon.
“We just don’t have enough facilities,” said Burkhart, one of a parade of Western Maryland officials who asked the Maryland Board of Public Works on Thursday for more school construction money.
Frederick, Allegany and Washington counties told the board they need more money than the amounts recommended this week by the Interagency Committee on School Construction.
Garrett County, which got $263,000 of the $264,000 it requested from the Interagency Committee, was one of only five counties in the state that did not ask for more money Thursday.
Allegany County asked for $6.6 million and was recommended to receive $4.1 million. Washington asked for $4.9 million and got $4.5 million while Frederick, which requested more than $21 million for school construction, got $5.2 million.
Frederick County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale said the county eliminated some proposals from its earlier request, and came to the board Thursday with those it considered most important.
That might be a risky tactic, he said, but he wanted to make an honest, realistic pitch to win funding for the most-needed projects.
Some of the projects that Dale said were left off the final request included more elementary school additions and roof projects. He said that additions for Middletown High School and Walkersville High School were at the top of the requests for additional funding.
“We need additional permanent space,” Dale said.
Frederick County Board of Education President Jean Smith said the money is needed to keep up with the rapid growth in the county, where close to half of the schools are over capacity.
“State support is vital to addressing our needs,” she said.
Frederick County Commissioner Bruce Reeder said funds are needed to build a new Thomas Johnson Middle School, which will free up space for expansion of the high school.
“If ever there was a school that symbolizes smart growth, this school has to be a shining star in Maryland,” he said of the middle school, which is to be built next to the high school.
Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington, also made reference to the state’s “Smart Growth” plan to control suburban sprawl, when he talked about Washington County’s need to renovate two schools.
Washington County Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said both Clear Spring Elementary and Williamsport High School are in need of improvements. He said the county already has most of the money for the projects and that the county was just seeking the support of the board.
Allegany County officials had only one project to bring before the board. Vince Montana, the county’s supervisor of maintenance and school construction, said the roof on the Old Town School needs to be replaced.
“I think if they take time to hear our appeal and let the project stand on its merit, I feel confident,” said Montana.
Gov. Parris Glendening has said he wants to spend $222 million on school construction this year, the most in more than 20 years, which has boosted the hopes of officials asking for money.
The board, which is comprised of the governor, Comptroller Louis Goldstein and Treasurer Richard Dixon, is not expected to make a decision on the funding requests for several weeks.