State gives go-ahead for Franklin renovations But county officials say repairs to middle school may not be done until 1999

November 29, 1995|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

With no reliable thermostat in the boiler room, classroom temperatures can soar to triple digits on winter mornings. Water leaks and seeps, causing a late-night avalanche of concrete. Students abandon cramped classrooms and head for the halls to work on large poster projects.

At Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown -- the most overcrowded middle school in Baltimore County -- the deterioration got so bad that teachers, students, the community and politicians cried for help.

The lobbying effort that ensued brought a visit yesterday from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who gave his support to a proposed renovation and expansion of the 66-year-old building.

Standing before a sixth-grade social studies class, Mr. Glendening announced that the state would give the county the go-ahead to draw renovation plans.

But it appeared unlikely the work would be done before the sixth-graders have gone on to high school. Mr. Glendening said later that state money to help pay for the $18 million project would likely be approved within a couple of years, and the county is envisioning completion in 1999.

"It really is a shame a great school like this has been allowed to deteriorate over the years," Mr. Glendening said. "I want for us to invest in some of the older schools and make them absolutely modern."

Constructed in 1929 as Franklin High School, the building became a middle school after a new Franklin High was built in 1960. Although the middle school was expanded in the mid-1960s, its enrollment now is 143 over its rated capacity of 967 -- and it is projected to have 1,400 students by the turn of the century.

The school uses five portable classrooms. Bathroom ceilings have holes, floors are settling and cracking, and the electrical system is not up to code.

Students in crowded hallways are sometimes jostled into hot radiators, said Bill Rehrig, a music teacher who heads the school's Site Based Management Committee.

Sarah Lauer, a 13-year-old eighth-grader on the committee, said of her school: "We're just waiting until it comes crashing down."

Considering the situation about a year ago, the committee of administrators, teachers, parents and students began seeking community backing for renovation and expansion. Mr. Rehrig said supporters wrote more than 1,000 letters.

Elected officials then were persuaded of the need, and in short order the school was on the list of priority construction projects -- moving ahead of a middle school planned for Owings Mills.

If everything moves forward as quickly as possible, the renovation and 400-student expansion could be complete by September 1999, said Jim Kraft, manager of capital planning for the county school system.

The county is asking the state to contribute $6 million toward the costs.

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