Letters To The Editor


November 13, 2005

Time to renovate Bel Air High School

The Bel Air High School community has long been promised that our school is next in line for modernization, and with good cause.

Bel Air High is the oldest public school in Harford County and was identified in 1997 by an independent engineering firm as the school most in need of modernization. A later study noted that the windows, doors, plumbing, air conditioning and heating systems are all at the end of, or have exceeded, their life expectancy. But Bel Air High still waits atop the board of education's priority list as other "priorities" have taken precedence.

Will the promise to Bel Air High School be broken? That would be a serious mistake, and not just because the students and staff have labored for too long in an outdated building. The promise should be kept because modernizing Bel Air High now would address two pressing concerns affecting the county.

The first is redistricting. In the coming months, passions will run high as parents seek what they perceive to be the best for their children. The distress parents may feel at having to send their children to a different school can be greatly offset by knowing they will send their children to a modern school. Creating a new facility for Bel Air High would improve the outlook for students who may be redistricted there, as well as for the students who will remain at Bel Air.

Second, Harford County's leadership, both elected and appointed, lobbied aggressively for the thousands of new jobs that will be coming to Aberdeen Proving Ground with the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC). But along with the potential benefits come serious responsibilities. They include providing school facilities for the children that BRAC will add to the school population everywhere in Harford. If these same leaders neglect their responsibility when there is still time to act, it would not just be an embarrassment, it would be a fumbled opportunity and a failure of leadership.

Modernizing Bel Air High contributes to the solution in two ways. First, the success of BRAC depends, in part, on the voluntary relocation of a highly educated work force. A state-of-the-art school facility in the heart of Harford would attract newcomers and send a powerful message about the value we place on public education. Second, a moderate increase in the capacity of a modern building would create additional seats in the Bel Air region for students whose families choose to make Bel Air their home.

All citizens have a right to expect adequate public school facilities and there are many compelling reasons to accelerate the modernization of schools throughout the county. The Bel Air community has been promised that we will not be left behind.

We have an undisputed need for a modern Bel Air High. Thousands of students have already passed through our school with the sound of unfulfilled promises ringing in their ears. We have waited long enough. It's time for the people of Bel Air, along with parents and educators throughout the county, to make a promise of our own: to focus our support on leaders who keep their promises.

Cindy Mumby

President, Bel Air High School PTSA

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