Parents seek money for schools HARFORD COUNTY

February 28, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

At Roye-Williams Elementary, it's sometimes 65 degrees in one classroom and 90 degrees in the next because of an antiquated heating system. At Hillsdale Elementary, students make do with outdated library books, and tape holds tattered carpeting together. At Bakerfield Elementary, four of the 13 televisions are beyond repair. They're 24 years old.

County and school officials got an earful of such complaints last week as residents pleaded for a share of increasingly scarce county money.

"We are not asking for frills," said Patrick McGrath, parent of a student at Roye-Williams Elementary in Aberdeen.

"What our school needs is pretty basic stuff," Mr. McGrath said, complaining of the erratic heating system and mildew "in almost every room."

More than 150 people -- almost all pleading for more money for schools -- packed a public hearing on the county budget at the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Department Hall Wednesday night.

It marked the first time County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has had a public hearing on the budget before presenting it to the Harford County Council.

All but one of the 20 speakers asked Mrs. Rehrmann for more money for education.

Some sought money for specific schools or projects, but many simply asked that she fully fund the school system's $169 million operating budget and $19 million capital budget. Mrs. Rehrmann must send her budget to the council by April 1.

Superintendent Ray R. Keech heard many of the same requests at a meeting Monday night at Aberdeen Middle School.

"Next year's capital budget will make the renovation of Roye-Williams Elementary the No. 1 priority," he promised parents.

But before bids can go out the county must approve the estimated $1.4 million for the renovation.

Getting money for school renovations or repairs has become increasingly difficult as budgets get tighter, said Steven R. Hardy, Roye-Williams principal.

So parents and faculty have to work harder at lobbying the school board to approve projects and the county to approve money for the projects, Mr. Hardy said.

More than a dozen people from the school attended both meetings.

"It's incredibly important to keep the pressure on. I try to meet as many of the people who have their hands on the money as possible," said Birgit Retson, publicity coordinator for Roye-Williams PTO.

Along with religiously attending school and county meetings, she organized a letter-writing campaign in September to pressure school and county officials to back the Roye-Williams renovation.

She estimates that parents at the school mailed about 1,000 letters.

"I was tired of waiting for things to happen." she said. "Roye-Williams has been promised renovations and other help in the past and it never came." Much of the 40-year-old school is as it was when it was built.

Mrs. Retson also helped organize tours for council members and school board officials, so officials could see the school's old plumbing and light fixtures, she said.

"Older schools like Roye-Williams have been neglected, while new schools have been built," she said at the meeting Monday.

Parents from other schools agreed.

David Shetterly, Hillsdale Elementary PTA president, said the school's library needed renovation. Among other things, he said, the carpet was installed in 1968 -- when the school opened. "That carpeting is worn and tattered. There is tape on the carpeting seams, holding it together," he said.

And, he said, many of the books are outdated. "The PTA purchased a set of encyclopedias and that was the first update for many years. Let's move the school into the '90s while we are still in the '90s and not wait until the year 2000," he said.

Mr. Keech, the superintendent, said, "We know that some of the equipment is antiquated and ridiculous."

He said the school system wants to establish centralized copy areas in each school district -- Aberdeen would be next -- because that's cheaper than upgrading the copier equipment in each school.

"We want to open a copying center each year, but we need to make sure we get enough money in our budget to buy the equipment first," Mr. Keech said.

One center, at Bel Air High School, has been opened. The center has a copying machine and an operator, Mr. Seymour said.

Linda Drysdale, president of the PTA at Bakerfield, said four of the school's 13 televisions were bought in 1969. They are so old they can no longer be repaired, she said.

"Our school has pressing needs. Just three new televisions, one in the media center and one in each wing, would make a tremendous difference," she said.

Too few televisions makes it difficult for students to watch classroom video tapes or important news events, like the presidential inauguration, she said.

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