Parents seek new school for Glendale Building is crumbling, but crowded facilities get higher priority

'We have been overlook'

Maintenance budget cut, so repair work will again be scanted

August 27, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Tired of excuses, parents are demanding that Glendale Elementary School -- the most dilapidated of Anne Arundel County's 117 schools -- be bumped to the top of the list of schools to be replaced.

Glendale, on Carroll Road in Glen Burnie, is one of three schools ranked as maintenance nightmares by the school system. But the other two -- Brooklyn Park Middle and Belvedere Elementary -- are empty while renovations are under way.

About 500 students will begin school at Glendale on Monday.

Built 48 years ago, when classroom computers were unheard of and children went home for lunch, it is out of date. Its bathroom sinks are stained with rust, lead paint is chipping in the stairwells, and leaky windows are too old to be replaced. It has no air conditioning, and parents say on a hot day, temperatures on the third floor reach the 90s.

"We can't do any long-standing repairs, like replacing all the windows. We just don't have the funds for that," said Ed Almes, head of school maintenance. "So, we try to keep the body alive, but sometimes, we don't have all the parts."

Fed up, some parents have resorted to doing work at the school -- caulking windows and replacing broken panes to keep their children dry.

The parents also are mobilizing. On Sept. 16, when the school board holds a public hearing on its capital improvement budget and debates what construction projects to undertake, Glendale parents say they will be there to complain about the crumbling school.

They have gotten the attention of local politicians, who toured the school last month while stumping for primary votes.

"The problem is that we have been overlooked," said Cindy Thompson, president of the Citizens Advisory Committee. "We are not overcrowded, and we are not likely to be because there is little new development here."

Three new schools -- Piney Orchard in Odenton, Mountain Road Corridor Elementary in Pasadena and South County Middle School -- are seen as more urgently needed by school officials and will be built before Glendale stands a chance of renovation.

For the same reason, major renovations are being done on schools built after Glendale.

Crowding is key

According to school records, the $100,000 needed for preliminary study of Glendale will not be available until 2001. No work could begin until at least 2002, and that date is doubtful.

Schools move up and down the priority list of construction projects largely dependent on how crowded they are. Another school, in an area where many homes are being built, could push Glendale lower.

It might be better if Glendale were not on the list at all. "Part of the problem is that if a school is on a list to be renovated or rebuilt, [school officials] don't put much into repairing it," said Diane R. Evans, a Democratic County Council member running for county executive and one of the politicians who recently toured the school. "But it could be years before it is rebuilt or renovated."

Patching

The most school maintenance crews can do is keep things patched up.

They have installed air conditioning in the media center and in the computer lab, which has been fitted with carpet and rewired so that printers and computers can be used at the same time without a fuse blowing.

Principal Jane Smith picked up ceiling fans and other hand-me- downs from the old Jacobsville Elementary. Smith found that the maple child-size chairs and tables brighten up the library.

"We got first pick of the things from Jacobsville because we were in the worst shape," Smith said.

This summer, a fresh coat of bright blue paint makes hallways, classrooms, bathrooms and lockers look less dingy. Crews also covered exposed radiators and replaced worn asbestos tiles.

"The paint really makes a difference in here," Smith says. "We were supposed to be painted several years ago, but it was always postponed."

Almes said about 50 county schools need major repairs such as heating, electrical wiring, carpet, roofs, asbestos removal in ceilings and plumbing fixtures. About 85 schools are on the maintenance backlog, needing about $80 million in work. Still, this year, the school board cut $1.5 million from the maintenance budget.

"So, some of these repairs will be pushed back," Almes said. "Next year, we will have to double up again."

But the school has more serious problems. One bathroom serves the 73 staff members and teachers. One large room serves as auditorium, cafeteria and gym so that Smith cannot schedule events at the same time the student body is rotating through lunch.

Not the worst

Because of asbestos, wiring for computers or new appliances has to be run on the outside of walls and floors. Pipes are exposed and some are cracking. The new ceiling fans do little to cool classrooms with 10-foot ceilings. Because water from the fountains is often rust-colored, children must drink bottled water from coolers brought in.

Smith, an educator for 26 years, said that while her school needs work and she would be happy to get a new one, it is not the worst she has seen.

"I think our parents just want to make sure that we are not pushed aside for another school that is overcrowded," she said.

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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