School funding moves slap Lansdowne in the face

Residents of Baltimore County who send their children to Lansdowne High School plan to show up in force at tomorrow’s school board meeting in order to try, again, to convince the board that the county needs to invest money in a new high school, not piecemeal renovations.

“We want to ask for the county not to invest $30 million in renovations to an old building,” says Sharleen Argamaso-Hernan, a science teacher at the school, in a YouTube video published more than a year ago, when this battle began. The video features visual evidence of a school building in need of repair. “But rather, set the funds aside so we have enough to build a whole new school. To repair, to renovate this building, which is in need of a lot repair, seems like a waste of taxpayer money.”

The video shows ceiling tiles that have fallen off or are filled with water stains—or worse. It shows floors and walls that are cracked, a building without air conditioning where temps last week were reportedly above 90°F inside some classrooms.

“The girls’ locker room stinks really bad,” two students in the video agreed, as they stood in that locker room and covered their mouth and nose with their hands. “Nobody even wants to use the showers … especially after it rains.”

“And there’s like mold on most of the ceiling sections, and the water is like not the right color. It shouldn’t be brown,” another student adds.

Some plans include the installation of A/C and an upgrade to the electrical work to support that upgrade. But that might not be the best way to go, community members say, especially since some schools that don’t need quite the level of repair Lansdowne does are being rebuilt.

“The Lansdowne community is full of wonderful people,” says Luke Simon, a magnet coordinator and technology liaison at the school. “But they need a platform to stand on—a new school. If we are in a building that’s being renovated, we are going to have limited use of the building; we don’t know how healthy it is while the construction is going on in the dust. It is not going to be ADA-compliant for a long time.”

Even with those improvements, though, the county still doesn’t plan to fix the plumbing in the school until 2023, Mr Simon says, despite a report in the Baltimore Sun today that says Lansdowne is on track for a “state-of-the-art systemic renovation” to be completed by 2020. Note: some information in the video may have been superseded, and we present it simply as visual evidence of the state of this high school.

No details are provided as to what “state of the art” means in this context in terms of specific renovations, but the whole discussion misses the point.

The school was built in 1963 and has a current student population of 1,338, a bit lower than its technical capacity of 1,440. And although it’s not over capacity, unlike other high schools in the district that are being rebuilt with this latest round of school construction funding, some of the problems, including bad plumbing and mold that students say can be found throughout the building, are concerns for student health and well-being.

The county plans to invest in Lansdowne, but instead of providing a new building, money will be thrown into the existing, dilapidated one, assuming the county’s current billion-dollar, 10-year construction plan dubbed Schools for Our Future goes according to plan.

“Baltimore County has taken a strategic approach with its elementary and middle school construction program that prioritized schools with serious overcrowding,” the Sun quoted Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman, as saying in an email. “That same criteria will be used as the county enters into the high school phase of Schools for our Future. … Using that metric, a new school for Lansdowne would be years down the road because there are enrollment issues in other areas of the county that must be addressed first.”

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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