The following comments were read by Laura Runyeon, President of the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, at the Harford County Board of Education meeting on Monday night. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you this evening. My name is Laura Runyeon and I am the President of the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA.
As you discuss the Capital Improvements Budget this evening, we urge you to consider the following:
In 2007, the Board of Education designated Youth’s Benefit as a school that needed to be replaced. In each year from 2007 through 2010, the Board of Education requested funding for a new Youth’s Benefit facility from the Inter Agency Committee, the state funding source for capital improvement projects.
By 2009 the design process was 95% complete and the design plans were posted in the school buildings. Later in 2009, we were advised that the project was deferred for lack of funding.
In 2011 when the Board of Education went before the IAC for funding requests for 2012, Youth’s Benefit was suddenly removed as a priority for replacement and the request was instead made for a joint John Archer/Homestead Wakefield project.
In the ensuing years since Youth’s Benefit was designated for replacement, the conditions that necessitated replacement have continued to mount. We are a 3 building school that will also need to continue to use its portables. The primary building was built in 1952 and the secondary building in 1965, which makes it along with Wm. Paca the two oldest multi building schools in Harford County.
There are many aging building problems and multiple infrastructure issues that include electrical, roofing, and plumbing. We cannot meet the targets for the Maryland Educational Technology Plan because the infrastructure is insufficient to support electrical upgrades. The existence of lead in the plumbing requires that the drinking water sources be closed and potable water be brought in. The roof in both the primary building and the kindergarten building leak significantly and it is not unusual for children to be sitting on the floor of their classrooms surrounded by buckets to catch the leaking water. These conditions continue to worsen. In addition, the open floor plan of the secondary building makes it difficult for students to concentrate in their classrooms. The open floor plan concept is an antiquated and long abandoned approach to education. There is significant lack of space and storage. I could continue to list all of the reasons that the school needs to be replaced, but the Board of Education designated Youth’s Benefit for replacement and apparently felt it was warranted as far back as 2007.
In March and again in May of this year, the Youth’s Benefit PTA Executive Board wrote letters to the Board of Education inquiring as to why Youth’s Benefit was removed from the list of priority for replacement. We have yet to receive a response. We continue to lack any insight as to why Youth’s Benefit was dropped below John Archer and Homestead Wakefield for priority.
In the spirit of transparency, the Board of Education should not continue to invest scarce capital funds into design and development for school replacement and then abandon the project for other projects without explanation and without public input.
We urge the Board of Education to fulfill its commitment to replace the Youth’s Benefit aging multi-building facility and to also consider replacing William Paca Old Post’s aging multi-building facility before beginning any other new capital improvement projects. Youth’s Benefit and Wm. Paca together represent more than 10% of the elementary student population of Harford County. By prioritizing these two schools for capital funding, the Board of Education has the opportunity to serve a significant portion of the elementary student population of Harford County.
Laura Runyeon, President of the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA