Parents Ask Board To Budget For School Improvements

September 18, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

Debbie Seward's voice cracked. She nervously choked back tears as she asked the Board of Education to remember South Shore Elementary in its capital budget request to the county.

"The textbooks are 10 to20 years old," Seward told board members during a public hearing on the budget Monday night. "The ceiling tile fell in on the children's desk and there is no air conditioning. Changes may be too late for mychildren there now, but maybe it won't be late for my 6-week-old."

Seward was one of about 24 parents requesting money for their schools -- a remarkably low number, perhaps due in part to repeated reminders by the board that money is tight.

The $19.9 million request submitted by School Superintendent Larry Lorton deals primarily with safety improvements and major maintenance items, such as $2.8 millionfor roof replacements throughout the county.

A separate list, to be submitted to the state, lists major school renovation projects. For the 1993-1994 fiscal year, the school system is requesting $4.9 million for projects at three schools -- North County High, Parole Elementary and the Center for Applied Technology South.

In addition, planning approval -- essentially a promise from the state it will pick up its share of the project's cost at a later date -- is being soughtfor nine schools, including Meade Heights Elementary, Marley Middle,Park Elementary, Southern Middle, Deale Elementary, South Shore Elementary, a new middle school in the Fort Meade area, Broadneck Senior and Solley Elementary.

About 300 parents sat in the audience, carrying banners and posters or wearing name tags in support of requests for such diverse items as walls in open space schools, roof repairs and school public address systems.

Jerry Celentano, president of North Glen Parent Teacher Association, offered alarming testimony abouttrespassers found on school property. He asked that a 12-foot chain link fence be installed along the school's property lines.

"Parents, children and neighbors have witnessed adult trespassers urinating on school property during school hours," he told board members. "An adult trespasser was found inside of our school bathroom during schoolhours. Police have been called on several occasions when strangers walking through school property during recess have frightened children. On one such occasion, a man was wearing a dark ski mask and was calling out to children."

Board members listened intently and thankedparents for coming out, but offered little hints about changing capital budget priorities.

The board will now consider and approve thecapital budget along with its five-year Capital Improvement Plan, due to the state Interagency Committee for School Construction -- the state agency that doles out school construction money -- by Oct. 15.

Donna Schramek, chairwoman of the Park Elementary Citizens AdvisoryCommittee, asked that the 48-year-old school be moved up on the priority list. The school's $4.1-million renovation project is sixth on the proposed capital budget request.

She and four other parents said they are concerned about safety at the school.

"We are concernedabout walkers and riders," she said. "About 80 cars pick up students, and there absolutely is no parking around our school. We're at 11thAvenue off Ritchie Highway and it's a free-for-all. The children's safety is in jeopardy."

As they have for the last three years, a large group of parents from Deale Elementary in South County came out in force, waving such signs as "We're Overcrowded at Deale" and a heart-shaped "Have a Heart for Deale" sign.

Parents from Solley Elementary in Pasadena are seeking a new building on 10 acres of land near the existing school. Solley was built in 1937 and renovated in 1954.

Fewer speakers this year meant that board members were able to complete the public hearing in 1 1/2 hours.

For the current school year, the board is operating on a $15 million capital budget. It had requested $36.4 million.

School Budget Officer Jack White described this year's request as streamlined. Several items are mandated by safety requirements, including asbestos removal and boiler replacements.

"Parents coming down to tell us their concerns helps," Board President Jo Ann Tollenger said. "I can't say that they will always determine the priorities. But it is helpful to get their perspective."

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