School repair project to start

Balto. County plans to spend $560 million over several years

First phase in 45 schools

Contractors aim to avoid disruptions for students, teachers

May 07, 2000|By SUN STAFF

A flurry of repairs will begin next month at 45 elementary schools across Baltimore County -- the first phase of a $560 million, multiyear school renovation project, the most ambitious ever undertaken by the county.

The renovations will reach throughout the schools -- from carpets to ceiling tiles, boilers to roofs. But school officials say the schedule of repairs should limit the impact on classroom teaching.

"We're shooting to get [the first phase] done by the end of August next year," said Don Krempel, the school system's director of physical facilities, who brought in 3D/International, a construction management firm from Houston, to help manage the project.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Maryland section incorrectly reported the location of a planned announcement by Gov. Parris N. Glendening on new school construction in Maryland. The governor will make the announcement at 11:45 a.m. tomorrow at Western High School on Falls Road in Baltimore.
The Sun regrets the error.

School officials intend to complete the initial phase without displacing children or interrupting instruction. Much of the most disruptive work -- including asbestos and boiler removal -- will be done at night, on weekends or during the summer.

Although no students will be forced to move into classroom trailers, some classes may be moved to temporary spaces in school libraries, gymnasiums or art classes, said Don Thomas, a project manager with 3D/I.

"We are going to have to move kids to temporary places somewhere in the school because if we didn't we'd be working nights and weekends for years to come," said Thomas. "We will be meeting with each principal to see where we can move them."

The first phase of improvements could top $137 million. Officials have asked the state for $42.2 million, and have received $26.5 million. But more could be coming.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has scheduled an announcement on school funding Tuesday at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science in Catonsville.

"The $26.5 million is a considerable and much-appreciated sum of money, but we're waiting to see what the governor has to say on Tuesday," said Charles A. Herndon, school system spokesman. "Everyone knows that we have many schools in need of improvements and any extra money would go a long ways toward that goal."

School officials are counting on the county to contribute about $95 million to the first batch of school projects, he said. The County Council has not voted on that request.

The second phase of renovations, set to begin in 2002, will involve the remaining elementary schools.

In the third phase, middle and high schools will be renovated.

Past problems

As school officials embark on the prodigious effort of repairing most of the county's 162 schools -- about 75 percent of which are at least 25 years old -- they remain aware of past problems that resulted in a loss of confidence in the physical facilities department and a clean sweep of top managers.

In 1996, audits of the department uncovered proof that officials routinely awarded jobs without competitive bidding, misrepresented contracts to gain board approval, mismanaged projects and hired people who did business with the school system.

Since then, the physical facilities department has been reorganized, with members of the Board of Education scrutinizing bids by contractors and requests for cost changes.

Board members and Krempel have worked well together since he was hired as director about a year ago.

'We've been impressed

His decision to bring in 3D/I, a corporation with extensive purchasing power and industry connections, won praise from the board.

"We've really been impressed," said school board member H.J. "Jack" Barnhart of Krempel and his staff. "We didn't expect the kind of finite detail we've gotten. It's excellent."

Krempel and Thomas met with school board members last week and presented each with a binder describing the scope of renovations at each of the 45 elementary schools.

A bar chart shows start and completion dates for various stages of work, including asbestos abatement, replacement of hot water boilers and repairs to restrooms and classrooms.

At the same meeting, members of the superintendent's staff made plans to work with school principals to disseminate information about the renovation projects so that teachers and parents won't be surprised. 3D/I has set up a Web site at www.3di.com/pws/default.asp to keep everyone informed. As of Friday, the site was being prepared.

Besides new windows, doors, boilers, sprinkler systems, carpet, ceiling tiles, roofs, and lockers, a fiber-optic wiring system will be installed, allowing elementary school fire alarms, computers, telephones and clocks to run off a "backbone" of cables, replacing outdated electrical panels and copper wiring.

Said Thomas: "By the time we're finished, Baltimore County schools will have the best fiber-optic system in the country."

Phase I projects

Elementary school..........................Cost (in millions)

Owings Mills ...........................................$4.4

Edmondson Heights .................................$4

Battle Grove .............................................$4

Carroll Manor .........................................$3.7

Villa Cresta ............................................$3.6

Timonium ...............................................$3.6

Riverview ...............................................$3.6

Norwood .................................................$3.6

Hawthorne .............................................$3.6

Berkshire ................................................$3.5

Wellwood ...............................................$3.5

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.