Council to hear from 2 pupils

6th-graders to share renovation-funding plan


Mary Davis and Matt Lurie can't vote, drive or get into certain movies by themselves. But the two sixth-graders think they can do what adults in the Howard County school system have not been able to do -- come up with a plan to fund renovations for Clarksville Middle School during the 2007 fiscal year.

After participating in a series of lessons in energy conservation in their sixth-grade science class, the pupils learned how the school could save up to $40,000 a year in energy costs. So they decided to make a presentation at tomorrow's County Council public hearing on the school system's pending operating and capital budgets.

"[The pupils think] there might be more money in the budget for renovations," said the youngsters' science teacher, Sandy Vinje. "They are excited about that part. They see a whole lot of places now that they can make a difference."

When Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin outlined cuts to his proposed capital budget last week, they included $3.6 million to fund the first phase of a renovation project at Clarksville Middle. The reductions were prompted by County Executive James N. Robey's decision to give the system $14.6 million less than the amount it requested for the fiscal 2007 capital budget.

Matt and Mary decided to devise a plan that would demonstrate the need for renovations and give the County Council, which has the power to restore money, other fiscal options.

"We were trying to find ways to help the County Council and Board of Education find money for our renovation," said Mary, who said there would be more than enough money to fund the project at her school if the system implemented the energy saving suggestions at all 70 county schools.

In addition to the pupils' money-saving plan, which would require the school staff to turn off lights and equipment that is not being used and switch to more energy-efficient light bulbs, the pupils went around the school taking pictures of areas they felt were in need of repair.

The two plan to use a PowerPoint presentation to help support their findings.

Matt said he took pictures of the school's sinks and toilets, which he said have brown water because of rust and because of the well water used in most of the school.

An interview with one of the school's custodians led Matt to discover that the building's air-conditioning system does not work properly.

"He [the custodian] told us that the [air conditioner] will just turn on at no set time during the day," Matt explained.

Carol Davis, Mary's mother, and the Citizens Advisory Committee representative for the PTA, confirmed Matt's findings.

"You can go through three different climates depending where you go in the school," Davis said.

Mary and Matt acknowledge being nervous about tomorrow's presentation.

"I'm afraid I'm going to say something wrong or screw up something, somehow," Mary

Tomorrow's public hearing begins at 9 a.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

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