School construction woes

September 18, 1995

WITH EVERY PASSING WEEK, the Anne Arundel County education system proves that it is incapable of managing school construction projects. Education planners still haven't explained

satisfactorily why schools that were supposed to hold 900 students are being built for 1,500, and already they're on the defensive for a host of other planning snafus. Granted, anyone who's ever attempted a home renovation knows delays and higher-than-anticipated bids are part of the game. But such problems are occurring way too often in the school system.

Architectural errors made while planning the new Solley Elementary meant that air conditioning and heating units wouldn't fit into the allotted space. Construction of Park Elementary was delayed because the faulty Solley drawings were used there, too. The price for Meade Heights Elementary has risen by $1.2 million because, instead of using two other available sites, planners have insisted on a site that requires Pentagon approval, which they have yet to receive. The cost of South Shore Elementary has ballooned from $6.2 million to $8.8 million because planners underestimated the cost of renovation and decided to build new instead.

Last year at this time, the cost of renovating Broadneck High to house ninth-graders was set at $22 million. Now it's up to $26 million because planners did not include money to replace the ventilation system -- all this for a school that's neither in bad condition nor overcrowded. The problem with Broadneck as it exists today is the result of -- surprise! -- poor planning. The facility should have been built for ninth-graders in the first place, but was designed too small. Now, officials are trying to fix their mistake at an alarmingly high price.

The school board and the County Council, which must come up with the extra money for Broadneck, surely see that school construction is being mismanaged at substantial cost. Executive John G. Gary wants the county to take over school construction; the board ought to let that happen. The executive would be directly accountable for making sure projects are planned correctly, which means they probably would be planned better than they are now.

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