Clad in Youth’s Benefit Elementary School green, approximately 30 advocates attended the June 25th meeting of the Harford County Board of Education, asking board members to put a replacement school for Youth’s Benefit at the top of their funding priority list for the fiscal year 2014.
The Harford County Board of Education approves a capital budget funding request each year for submission to the state in October, subject to funding availability from state and county sources. The capital funding request for the fiscal year 2014 must be submitted to the state in October 2012.
However, the school board has put all major capital projects on hold pending the results of a review of county facilities known as the Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, which is being paid for by Harford County government. The contract to conduct the review, including all Harford County public schools, is expected to be put out for bid this summer, according to Cornell Brown, HCPS assistant superintendent for operations. Brown has estimated that such a comprehensive study may take at least a year or more to complete.
Below are excerpts from the comments made to the Harford County Board of Education on June 25th by representatives of the following Fallston community organizations: Build It Now, the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA, and the Greater Fallston Association.
MacMillan: Youth’s Benefit Meets All Criteria for Prioritization, Replacement School is “Shovel Ready”
“Good evening President Wheeler, Dr. Tomback and members of the Board of Education. My name is Paul MacMillan and I am speaking on behalf of Build it Now which is a community based organization of concerned citizens that has been advocating for the replacement of the County’s aging multi-building elementary schools.
Tonight I am here to ask the Board to include Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in its 2014 Capital Improvement Program and to ask the State for funding for this project. With over 1000 students it is the largest elementary school in Harford County and one of the largest in the state.
Given the scarcity of funds available to replace aging schools it’s difficult to prioritize the handful of schools most in need of replacement and there are four critical filters that should govern that prioritization.
1. Does the school meet all four of the HCPS’s current criteria for replacement?
2. Is the school one of the Board’s top priorities for replacement?
3. Does the school currently have the funding support from the County Executive and the County Council?
4. Is the School Shovel ready?
Youth’s Benefit meets all four of HCPS’s current criteria for replacement which are:
1. Adequacy of Core Space
2. Adequacy for Instruction
3. Age of School
And last, but not least…
4. Environmental, Health and Safety Considerations
Youth’s Benefit has been identified for replacement by Boards of Education as far back as 1996. Sixteen years ago!
The County Executive identified funds for the replacement of Youth’s Benefit in the 2013 budget beginning in the 2014 outyears plan and the County Council has also indicated their public support for this specific project.
And, a comprehensive scope study was completed on Youths Benefit in 2007 and design and construction documents were substantially completed in 2009. Youth’s Benefit is shovel ready.
Youths Benefit is the only school in the entire system that passes through each of those four filters! To wait for the completion of the county wide scope study before asking the state to fund another school means that we lose out on another year of state funding of capital projects—funding that is lost forever to other counties.”
Runyeon: “Youth’s Benefit is the only school in the County with actionable lead levels”
“Good evening, my name is Laura Runyeon and I am the President of the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA, an organization that represents over 800 families for a school with over 1,000 students. Thank you Dr. Tomback, Dr. Wheeler and members of the Board for the opportunity to speak before you this evening. We are here to request that the Board include Youth’s Benefit replacement in its 2014 Capital Improvement Program and ask for funding from the State for this project.
As you know, for more than a year, we have been actively advocating for the replacement of the aging, multi-building elementary schools in the County. Youth’s Benefit was identified for replacement as far back as 1996 and its failing building issues continue to mount. We have been on the list for 16 years – 16 and this facility is not healing itself.
We have outlined our many challenges including, a failing septic, buckets in the classrooms due to leaking roofs, open classroom architecture that is widely seen as counter-productive and has been outdated for over 30 years ago, a significant lack of classroom space, space for assembly and teacher planning, boilers that fail to adequately heat the water in the cafeterias, an inability to increase technology, structural cracks in the framing in one building and actionable lead levels in the water. In fact, Youth’s Benefit is the only school in the County with actionable lead levels.
I was dismayed to learn recently that the lead sampling in our Intermediate Building has not included the faucets in the bathrooms that the children utilize and that there are no signs posted warning students not to drink the water. It is entirely plausible that an 8, 9 or 10 year old child who sees several other students in line at the water station will not wait to refill his water bottle and will instead use the bathroom sink. Despite repeated requests that warning signs be posted in mid-May, we closed the school year this year without any postings. We don’t know for sure that the lead levels in the students’ restrooms are actionable because we aren’t testing them. We do know that lead levels are rising in other areas and that we cannot determine if the lead is coming from the pipes or the groundwater. We simply cannot continue to fail to address these issues…”
Poggioli: “Harford County is building…a recreation center, an EMS building and a humane society [facility]…it is imperative that we also build schools!”
“Good evening, my name is Beth Poggioli and I am president of the Greater Fallston Association. The GFA is broad based community membership group founded over 40 years ago to represent the residents of Fallston. Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight on behalf of our community.
In accordance with its charter, the Greater Fallston Association is charged with encouraging the improvements of schools in the Fallston community. In this regard, the GFA supports the efforts of the Youth’s Benefit PTA and Build It Now, to respectfully ask that Youth’s Benefit Elementary be the top priority for replacement on the 2014 Capital Improvement Plan.
We understand that there is a proposed county wide evaluation, but as you know, Youth’s Benefit has been on the capital improvement list for over 16 years. We understand that our elementary school, one of the largest in the state, has received no major upgrades or renovations, due to the fact that the multiple buildings were to be torn down and rebuilt as one single safe structure.
The Fallston community is home to some of the highest performing schools in the county and state. We know that our children have the potential to meet the challenges of the 21st century, but to expect them to continue to try to achieve in school buildings that lack technology, contain open classrooms and are potentially unsafe is unacceptable.
We understand that Harford County has chosen not to forward fund schools, but we are aware that the State will be including a significant amount of money for school construction, in the state budget. On a local level, the Fallston community was told in 2009 there was a lack of funding available for our project. In fact, many county capital projects were put on hold during the economic downturn. As of 2012, Harford County is building again. A recreation center, an EMS building and a humane society [facility] are all on this year’s county capital improvement list. It is imperative that we also build schools!
The time is right for this project now.”