Parents to renovate Jessup Elementary Walls, sprinkler system needed WEST COUNTY--Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

April 13, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Parents of students at Jessup Elementary School, tired of waiting for the Board of Education to pay for renovations and sprinklers, have started their own money-raising campaign and are planning to do the work themselves this summer.

The cost of putting up walls to close off classrooms in the "open space" school and installing a sprinkler system will be about $500,000 -- but the size of the project hasn't daunted parents' spirits.

General contractors, carpenters and architects among the parents and their friends have joined area businesses in offering their services at no charge. Materials also have been donated by area businesses, or purchased with money raised by the parents.

"The project was started to get parental involvement," said Steve Kendall, who is coordinating the parents' efforts. "Out of 462 families, 300 families are contributing more than 4,000 volunteer hours."

Mr. Kendall said he has persuaded Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland to donate two free years of phone usage that will be used as part of a new library computer lab the parents are creating.

Six of the 60 computers needed for the lab have already been promised.

"If children are home sick, they could call up the computer and get their homework," Mr. Kendall said. "But we have to be sure they'll be compatible with computers already in the schools. I think this is more advanced than anything we've got now."

The only real problem is liability:

Who pays if something goes wrong and a wall is crooked, or someone is hurt on the job?

Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat, joined Mr. Kendall last week in trying to persuade the school board to help them work out the liability issue.

He pointed to the amount of money the parents will be saving the school system.

"The money they're freeing up, well, you can do other things with it, like roof repairs," Mr. Bachman reminded the school board.

"We've also got parents in other schools, like Linthicum Elementary, who want to do the same thing. By God, we're going to try to help them if we can."

P. Tyson Bennett, counsel to the Board of Education, told school board members the liability issues are "significant but not insurmountable."

One other problem is the number of staff members at the Board of Education who would be available to oversee such projects.

"We have several schools at the gate," said Michael K. Raible, director of planning and construction for the board.

"We can handle one project this size at a time, but if 10 groups of parents line up, we'll be really strung out staff-wise."

But school board members, including Jo Ann Tollenger, urged the board staff to do everything possible to help the parents.

"Even if we have to spend $1 million to get a $10 million job done, I'll spend the extra money to hire more staff on a temporary basis," Ms. Tollenger said.

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