After listening to parents' repeated complaints about disruptions from low-flying airplanes near Glen Burnie Park and Oakwood elementaries, Board of Education members voted reluctantly yesterday to accept a Maryland Aviation Administration grant to soundproof the two schools -- even though they fear it may not cover all expenses.
The $5 million in federal money, offered through the MAA, which operates Baltimore-Washington International Airport, will pay for taking out most of the schools' windows and adding new acoustic ceilings and ventilation systems.
However, the MAA has agreed to pay for only 20 percent of the air conditioning costs required for the soon-to-be-enclosed buildings. The county is being asked to pay 80 percent of the cost of air conditioning, or $500,000 per school.
The federal government will pay 80 percent of the abatement costs incurred by the MAA, but covers air conditioning only as it relates to ventilation.
Board members are concerned that a contingency plan is not in place in case asbestos is found once sound abatement work begins -- as was the case with Corkran Junior, where costs mushroomed from $1.5 to $2.8 million once asbestos was found.
Students were barred from the school for over a year, moving back only this fall.
The board also is concerned that the additional costs involved in air conditioning the two schools could detract from other projects high on its capital budget list.
"I think Corkran made us all nervous," board president Nancy Gist said.
Board vice president Jo Ann Tollenger told construction office staff members she was concerned about the lack of a plan to relocate students if asbestos is found within the school.
But Mark Moran, supervisor of design and engineering, said relocating students should not be necessary. And he said he is hoping the state will pay for a larger share of the air conditioning costs, since a cheaper cooling system offered through Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is being used.
A similar system is already in place at Southern Middle school, where the cooling system runs during non-peak periods.
Despite the vote to accept the grant, parents like James Wetzel say they are not completely satisfied.
"It's not over," Wetzel said after the meeting. "Next they will try to move the students. (The school) should be kept open."
Wetzel, whose children attend Oakwood Elementary, recommended to board members that the work be done during the summer to avoid busing students to other schools. Already, he says, the school loses "three hours each day" due to airplane noise.
Dennis Stevens, president of the Airport Coordinating Team, a non-profit citizens group, urged board members to seek further assistance for air conditioning from the airport.
"The FAA and the state of Maryland should fund not only the (soundproofing) but also the necessary air conditioning as they will do, we understand, for Arthur Slade (Regional Catholic School)," Stevens said.
"Projects related to (Chicago's) O'Hare airport included funding for both sound attenuation and air conditioning.
"Since (the) Anne Arundel public school system did not cause the aviation noise problem and Glen Burnie Park Elementary and Oakwood were constructed long before the BWI airport noise zone, both the state of Maryland and the FAA should assume responsibility," he said.