About 1,000 Bowie State University students, faculty and administrators have been given assurances that the school's main classroom building, which is expected to reopen Monday, will be safe after major structural repairs.
In a meeting with Bowie State President James E. Lyons Sr. yesterday, the students and faculty were informed that 80 percent of the Martin Luther King building would be open for classes Monday. It was closed for emergency repairs Aug. 21 after structural engineers found cracks in the concrete throughout the building, Lyons said.
Also, interior steel cables supporting the three-story, 17-year-old concrete building have rusted in places and have been under repair since June 13, said Joe Harrison, spokesman for the state Department of General Services.
"The students were concerned," Lyons said, explaining why the meeting occurred. "They wanted to know, 'Is it safe?' I told them I thought it was."
Lyons said he and a group of students and faculty representatives have met with the architects, who assured them that the building is structurally sound.
"I think that satisfied a majority of the people," he said.
Additional cracks were found in a portion of the building last weekend but were inspected and evaluated to be "relatively minor," Harrison said.
"We are taking a very cautious approach to this," Harrison said. "No chances will be taken with student and faculty safety."
Harrison said university administrators will decide whether to reopen the building.
The emergency repairs, expected to be completed by next week, are costing between $700,000 and $1 million. Lyons has notified the University of Maryland System Board of Regents that the institution is paying for the work out of its operating budget.
Lyons said he is concerned about the cost of the repairs, plus a state directive that Lyons cut his 1991 budget by nearly $1 million as part of cost containment measures.
"We're not sure our university can take such a hit," Lyons said. "If we were looking at $2 million, I just don't know where we'll find that kind of money. The regents have indicated that the UM System may help us with a loan. I'd hope the state would cut us some slack."
This term, Bowie State recorded its largest enrollment, about 4,000 students.
The lack of classroom space had forced administrators to schedule classes to be held on racquetball courts, on gymnasium balconies, in portable trailers and inside the Yorktown Elementary School.
Faculty members whose offices are in the King building have set up temporary desks in Bowie's library and college center, Lyons said.
"It's a major undertaking. We've set up classes everywhere," Lyons said. "If we're talking about [the building being closed] two weeks, we'll get through it and all be closer. If it's longer, I don't know what we'll do."
The building was constructed in 1973 for $4.5 million, Lyons said. Since 1981, he said, "the building has been a problem" because the concrete and glass structure has needed $2 million in repairs, although there was nothing as serious as the recent structural deficiencies.