At a meeting of the Harford County Board of Education held Monday, April 30, the following public comments were made to school board members by Youth’s Benefit Elementary School parent Laura Runyeon. Following Ms. Runyoen’s comments, the school board voted to table a planned decision on a $2,088,000 contract to air condition the Youth’s Benefit primary building. School Board Member James Thornton made the motion to table, citing Ms. Runyeon’s comments regarding the placement of a new building for Youth’s Benefit in County Executive David Craig’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014:
Comments for April 30th BOE Meeting
My name is Laura Runyeon and I am a member of the community-based group, Build It Now.
As you are all aware, our organization along with the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA, has been advocating for the replacement of the aging, multi-building elementary school facilities in the County. We have outlined the many challenges and deficiencies facing Youth’s Benefit as well as William Paca as a result of our failing school buildings. We believe that it is imperative that we provide our elementary school students with safe, secure and technologically advanced learning environments, particularly during these formative years.
We applaud our students, teachers and administrators for their achievements, including their performance recognition this evening. We are proud of their commitment to excellence and their successes despite our challenges.
We were delighted to learn that the County Executive had identified Youth’s Benefit for replacement in his 2014 out-years budget as well as William Paca and Homestead Wakefield beginning in 2016. We understand that the county-wide evaluation of all capital projects will proceed this summer and we believe that it continues to have merit. There are 53 schools in the County. Many of these schools will need some type of renovation over the next several years; but as you mentioned, Dr. Tomback, at the County Council budget work session, there are a number of projects that we know need to be addressed and you identified these schools among them. We cannot continue to fail to meet the needs of these facilities and we cannot halt all capital projects, particularly if there are county and state funds available for them. To do so will create a significant backlog of unresolved projects.
We understand that included in the Consent Agenda this evening is the awarding of the contract for the HVAC installation in the Primary Building at Youth’s Benefit. Given the potential for addressing the school replacement project beginning in FY 2014, we urge you to amend the Consent Agenda to remove this HVAC contract award. The HVAC installation is a costly project and it fails to address any of our significant deficiencies. We understand that this is a difficult decision to make. This Board is attempting to provide equity in the system for all schools with limited resources, but make no mistake, this does not provide equity for Youth’s Benefit. It is a bandaid on a facility that is hemorrhaging.
How many of us went to elementary schools without air conditioning? But could we drink the water? Spending nearly 3 million dollars on air conditioning for a school that needs to be replaced just does not make sense. Instead, let’s spend our energy and funds on addressing the real deficiencies with our schools, looking in to better air conditioning services is a must.
We are hopeful that you understand our challenges and concerns and we believe that as a County and a community we can address our issues. Youth’s Benefit is shovel ready.
As always, we thank you for your time, attention and the opportunity to speak before you.