City school board boosts spending for renovations $76 million proposal to be voted on next week

September 14, 1990|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

The Baltimore public school system is planning to spend more than $76 million in city and state funds on capital improvements under a program presented to the school board last night.

The proposal, due to be voted on next week, contains money for asbestos removal and improvements to existing schools, including roofing work.

It calls for about $6 million each year in local funds, an increase of about $2 million each year in city spending on capital improvements in the schools.

That increase will let the Education Department obtain an additional $16 million in state matching funds over the five-year period, according to Patsy B. Blackshear, an associate superintendent of schools.

But it is still far less than the amount needed for renovating the city's aging schools, according to several board members.

Though the proposal would allow for the renovation of two schools in some years, some 40 to 50 schools need renovation, said board member Meldon S. Hollis.

"We're not gaining ground, we're losing ground," said Hollis.

"The fact of the matter is, we are never going to catch up on the basis of funding as it is now done," said Joseph Lee Smith, board president. He put the total price tag at "hundreds of millions of dollars" for all the renovation work that is needed.

The plan presented last night calls for renovations over the next few years to schools that are in many cases more than 60 years old. None of the 11 schools are in compliance with health and safety standards, according to a program summary.

The projects include a planned major renovation of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical Senior High School at a cost of $14.7 million through 1997, and renovation at Lakeland Elementary-Middle School at a cost of $5.5 million through the same time period.

In other action last night, the board approved creation of a 21-member task force to develop the African/African-American curriculum due to be incorporated into elementary schools next year.

The board's action sets up a detailed timetable for the new curriculum, including a public hearing March 21 of next year and approval by the board next April 4, in time for it to be included in the 1991 elementary school curriculum.

The process would be repeated for the middle school curriculum in 1992 and for the high school curriculum in 1993.

As established by the board, the task force will include four subcommittees, focusing on mathematics and natural sciences; English and foreign languages; social sciences; and physical education, visual and performing arts.

Members will include people with expertise in African and African-Americanstudies, and the task force will be aided by an outside consultant familiar with multiethnic education.

But the board held off on identifying members of the panel until all of them could be notified about their appointments.

In addition, the board conducted the last in a series of public hearings on a proposed school restructuring plan, and was urged to postpone a Sept. 20 vote to give parents and community groups more time to study and comment on the proposal.

The plan would give the schools greater autonomy.

"It's obvious why there has been so little testimony," said Chickie Grayson, president of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. "People simply are not aware of it."

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