School repairs plan offered County proposes fixing elementary in Randallstown

$6.7 million renovation cost

Parents opposed, say new structure should be built

October 08, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Trying to quell a community campaign for a new school, Baltimore County officials are proposing a new repair plan for Randallstown Elementary that would cost more than $6.7 million -- about 68 percent more than the renovations approved by the school board two weeks ago.

But the plan -- which includes a new heating system and cafeteria -- has failed to win the approval of Randallstown parent leaders, who say the 90-year-old building should be replaced, not renovated.

"The parents are not satisfied," said Yvette L. Harris, president of the school's PTA. "If they spend all this money [on repairs], there's no way we're going to get a new school."

The repair plans emerged this week as county officials completed a comparison of the costs of renovating and adding to Baltimore County's oldest elementary school with the costs of constructing a replacement at a nearby location owned by the school board.

County officials are concerned about the amount of money being spent on school construction because a survey of the county's 161 schools has determined that the elementary schools need $213 million worth of repairs. The cost estimates for middle and high schools aren't completed but could be just as high.

Building a 550-student elementary school at a site known as Randall Ridge near Randallstown High School would cost about $12.4 million, said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

But the property has several features likely to complicate construction, including environmentally sensitive wetlands and lack of road access and water and sewer connections.

If the state would help the county pay for the new school, it likely would provide about $2 million, leaving the county to pay for the remaining $10.4 million, Davis said. By contrast, he added, the state would likely provide about $1.6 million of the $6.7 million needed for the revised repair plan -- costing the county about $5 million less than a new school.

"We don't have the $5 million more it would cost to build the new school," Davis said.

He said that every extra dollar spent on Randallstown would delay repairs at other county schools.

The renovation plan for Randallstown includes the $4 million worth of work approved last month in the school board's capital budget for 1999-2000, including removing asbestos and replacing windows, doors, ceilings, chalkboards and electrical, lighting, heating and plumbing systems.

The county would acquire two adjacent properties along Liberty Road -- creating a bus loop and more parking -- and close the street between the school building and the playground.

A $700,000 cafeteria would be built, and a sprinkler system and an elevator would be added to bring the building up to code, Davis said.

"Adding $2.7 million isn't an easy decision, but we felt like we had to do it," Davis said.

Mixed review

The revised repair plan was praised by school officials. "I think it is a very encouraging sign of the county's commitment to the children of Randallstown," said Donna Flynn, Northwest area superintendent.

But the proposal did little to appease Randallstown's parent leaders, who spoke out at a candidates forum Tuesday night at Randallstown High School.

"If they don't have the money [for a new school], how come the money for renovations keeps going up?" Harris asked.

The parents want the county to put the money for the planned renovations toward a new building, Harris said. "It's a poor investment of funds to put $7 million into a bucket with a hole in it," she added.

Harris and Randallstown PTA vice president Sarah Dobson pledged that their campaign for a new school would continue, and they said the community would hire an engineer to review the suitability of the Randall Ridge site. They said that Randallstown has waited long enough while other communities have received money.

"Our goal is still for a new school," Dobson said. "We have gone without for a number of years already."

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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