Baltimore County school officials stunned the school board when they recently released a list of proposed capital projects that does not include replacements for Dulaney and Towson High Schools.
On Tuesday, the board is expected to hear from the administration on why those two projects, which for years have been on the capital projects list, have now vanished.
“I never voted for this nor would I support this,” board member Russ Kuehn told school officials at the board’s December 22 meeting. “I’m curious as to what this document actually is for.”
Pete Dixit, executive director for facilities management for the county schools, told Kuehn the new list is based on a multi-year improvement plan for the schools done by a consulting firm, CannonDesign.
“We’ll go line by line in the next meeting, explaining that to you,” Dixit said.
Board members clearly were not appeased by that explanation.
“The board did not take any action on any of the recommendations that were presented by CannonDesign,” board member Kathleen Causey said.
Noting that Dulaney is missing from the list and Towson is now a renovation rather than a new school, Causey said that “is not what the board has voted for consistently over the last couple of years.”
Board member Lily Rowe said, “I believe it would require a board vote to remove something that the board specifically added.”
Replacing Towson and Dulaney, which could cost as much as $300 million in state and local money, has long been a promise made by officials. They have been lobbied by advocates to replace the aging buildings. Towson High is also the county’s most crowded high school, at nearly 130% capacity.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski campaigned on it. He has dedicated $500,000 in planning money for each of those projects.
County spokesman Sean Naron said in an email, “The administration was not advised of the adjustments made in BCPS’ initial FY22 capital budget proposal and is closely monitoring the Board of Education’s efforts as they discuss and finalize their official budget request to the County Executive.”
The study by CannonDesign cost the county $1.2 million according to Naron.
In its report, CannonDesign said its job was to offer “impartial, unbiased recommendations.” It laid out a $1.2 billion plan to deal specifically with the county’s high schools. At current state and local funding levels, it would take 27 years to complete. Officials are counting on the Maryland General Assembly increasing the state’s share of school construction money for Baltimore County. The 2021 session convenes January 13.
The consultant agrees with the county’s plan to build a new Lansdowne High School.
It calls for additions to Towson, Dundalk, Patapsco and Loch Raven High Schools.
The public process of prioritizing school building projects is just getting under way. The school board is expected to approve a capital projects list later in January. It eventually will go to the Olszewski and the county council for approval.
Watch the Board of Education's Jan. 5 virtual meeting here. Click the links at the top of the page for the specific session you want to view.