Pitch made to fix schools

Officials say system needs to renovate two older buildings

`Unbearably horrid'

Counties to compete for less state money for capital projects

Carroll County

January 31, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Toting a suitcase with more than 500 letters from Hampstead-area elementary and middle school pupils, Carmela Guthart went to Annapolis yesterday to do her part to persuade state officials to funnel more school construction money Carroll County's way.

Specifically, the North Carroll Middle School PTO president joined a delegation of school officials, county representatives and Carroll's legislators to ask the state Board of Public Works to approve $7.8 million to renovate the 46-year-old middle school.

"If I were to create a list of all the repairs and replacements needed at North Carroll Middle School, it would be an absurd length," school board President Susan W. Krebs said at yesterday's hearing, reading a letter that eighth-grader Brett Messiora wrote to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"We have a septic system complication and often the school smells unbearably horrid," Brett wrote, adding that the school is sometimes so cold that teachers wear gloves during class and that the roof leaks during heavy rains, often leaving large puddles inside the building.

North Carroll Middle's pitch was part of the county's appeal for an additional $9.2 million to renovate well, septic and electrical systems at 73-year-old Charles Carroll Elementary in Silver Run and install air conditioning at Sykesville Middle. Carroll officials requested planning approval for a new elementary school in Mount Airy and a new South Carroll-area middle school.

The state has approved $5.6 million for Winters Mill High School, under construction outside Westminster; Cranberry Station Elementary, which opened in 1999 near Westminster; and a heating and air-conditioning system for Westminster Elementary.

Less funding expected

The governor has set aside about $150 million for school construction next year -- a lesser amount than in recent years. About $110 million of that amount has been earmarked for projects by the Interagency Committee on School Construction, the state agency that recommends capital funding allocations for Maryland's 24 school systems.

During yesterday's hearing, an annual ritual known as the "Beg- athon," 13 school systems asked for a share of the remaining money -- submitting requests that totaled almost $160 million. The largest requests were made by Calvert, Frederick, Howard and Prince George's counties.

The governor typically announces the last of the school construction allocations in May.

Townsend fills in

With Glendening on his honeymoon, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend joined Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon on the panel.

Townsend reacted with alarm as Krebs read two student letters about conditions at North Carroll.

"Oh, my God," she said when Krebs read about the school's septic system. "Why were things allowed to get so bad?"

Rapid growth, Krebs said, has forced school and county officials to focus attention and direct limited money on building schools rather than maintaining older ones.

"We've been choosing between putting a roof over someone's head who doesn't have a [classroom] seat and fixing the roof of an older school," she said.

Fond memories

Many public officials offered stories and fond recollections of North Carroll Middle to persuade the state panel to approve a share of the $19.3 million modernization.

Del. Joseph M. Getty recalled spending six years there as a student because the building opened as a high school and had a junior high wing before becoming a middle school.

Carroll County interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker taught, was athletic director and coached a state championship track team there when the school opened.

Dixon, who began his political career as a Carroll school board member in 1970 and retires tomorrow after six years as state treasurer, shared his favorite memory.

"Of all the schools I've visited in my career, North Carroll Middle is the only school that ever caught me with my pants down," he said.

"Do tell," Townsend said.

About a half-hour into a presentation, Dixon ripped the seat of his pants. The classroom teacher noticed, hurried Dixon into a nearby room and found someone in the school to sew his trousers.

"They allowed me to go back to talk to the classroom and the story had a happy ending," Dixon said. "So when North Carroll Middle School comes up, please remember the time I was held hostage with my pants down."

Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

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