It's official: County school to be razed Martin Blvd. Elementary ravaged by termites, age

September 06, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

Martin Boulevard Elementary School has earned itself a new school building -- if only through months of raised and dashed hopes as officials debated whether to renovate the 70-year-old school in coming years or build a new one now.

Yesterday, after months of on-again, off-again building plans, parents and teachers got the word from County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III that the county is moving ahead with plans to raze and rebuild the school.

If state and bond money comes through as requested, the $9.5 million construction project would begin in July, for a possible opening in fall 1999.

"I just hope it's true this time," said Jean R. Salerno, the former PTA president who fought to replace the building, a portion of which dates to 1927.

Termites, shaky floors and poor heating and ventilation are just some of the ways age has ravaged the building.

"They need a new building big time," Salerno said.

County officials put a replacement school high on their priority list last year, and included the project in next year's capital budget, expecting help from the state.

All signs were positive to parents who lobbied for a new school for years. Gov. Parris N. Glendening even visited the school in April to tout the state's nearly $15 million commitment to school construction in Baltimore County, the second-highest award in the state.

"We were all excited," Salerno said. "We thought he was coming to tell us we had a new school."

But state construction officials decided it would be more economical to renovate the school, replacing only a portion that dated to 1937.

In May, the state put Martin Boulevard on the "planning" list for a renovation, allocating about $1.5 million for the effort -- not next year, but sometime in the future.

Since then, county officials have continued to push for a new school, and have worked out an agreement with state officials to allow the construction -- using renovation money -- as long as the county makes up the difference.

In the end, the county probably would have to kick in about $400,000 more than it would if the state had recommended the replacement.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina said the new school would help stabilize a Middle River community "under great pressure" from declining income levels and an increasingly transient population -- just as the new Essex Elementary School has benefited that community.

"A good education system -- whether a new school, a new curriculum or new policies -- is probably the key element in stabilizing a community," said Gardina, a Democrat from Perry Hall.

Michelle Pollock, a mother and chairwoman of the new school committee at Martin Boulevard, has seen the old building through asbestos abatement, a lead problem in the water, and cracked walls with peeling paint. The structure has been renovated three times: in 1937, 1949 and 1969.

"We tried painting and patchwork, but there's only so much painting and patchwork that will cover those spots," she said.

The school, with 348 students, is about 27 percent above capacity. The new school would seat 394.

The project depends on voter approval of a $90 million bond referendum scheduled for the November ballot, and securing the $1.5 million in state money.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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