Ahead of a Sept. 18 Board of Education meeting addressing air conditioning in county schools, the school system has posted a priority list ranking schools most in need.
County and school officials have previously stated that schools are selected for air conditioning infrastructure based on jobs that can be done at the lowest cost and the most quickly. Notably, high schools are listed as the highest priority, followed by elementary schools and then middle schools.
Charles Herndon, a school system spokesman, said a full explanation of the list will be provided at the meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenwood administrative campus. He speculated that the decision to prioritize high schools was made because it would impact more students, given those schools have higher populations.
At Westowne Elementary School's Back-to-School Night on Thursday, Comptroller Peter Franchot condemned the school system for having about 40 percent of its schools without air conditioning. He said Anne Arundel County Public Schools faced the same dilemma about 10 years ago, but remedied the situation in about a year by installing low-cost window units. Franchot argued that it cost about $100,000 per Anne Arundel public school and disputed claims by Baltimore County officials that total cost could top $400 million.
"I guarantee you that every elected official in Baltimore County works in an air conditioned office," he said.
Franchot, an avid supporter of air conditioning classrooms, did praise Superintendent S. Dallas Dance for taking the air conditioning issue seriously. He had previously publicly criticized Dance's predecessor, Joe Hairston, for not including air conditioning in his fiscal year 2013 capital budget proposal. Franchot sits on the Maryland Board of Public Works, which is responsible for approving the county capital budget.
"[Dance] doesn't look very old but he's actually a very impressive professional," he joked.
While Franchot primarily stuck to discussing the county wide air conditioning issue Thursday night, he is planning to work closely with Westowne families to champion their cause. Franchot plans to attend Westowne's Oct. 3 parent teacher association meeting to discuss strategy specifically for the Catonsville school. The comptroller was successful in a similar effort for Middleborough Elementary School in Essex.
"I'm thrilled that he's here," said Denise Avara, president of Westowne's parent teacher association. "We've been fighting this for 14 years and hopefully his support will give us some traction."
The school system has listed the schools in the following priority order:
- Overlea High School
- Patapso High School
- Kenwood High School
- Franklin High School
- Woodlawn High School
- Lansdowne High School
- Dulaney High School
- Colgate Elementary School
- Dundalk Elementary School
- Chase Elementary School
- Victory Villa Elementary School
- Westowne Elementary School
- Villa Cresta Elementary School
- Berkshire Crest Elementary School
- Hawthorne Elementary School
- Campfield Center Elementary School
- Bear Creek Elementary School
- Kingsville Elementary School
- Oakleigh Elementary School
- Wellwood Elementary School
- Edmonson Heights Elementary School
- Featherbed Lane Elementary School
- Pleasant Plains Elementary School
- Battle Grove Elementary School
- Baltimore Highlands Elementary School
- Grange Elementary School
- Orems Elementary School
- Scotts Branch Elementary School
- Bedford Elementary School
- Chapel Hill Elementary School
- Charlesmont Elementary School
- Halstead Academy Elementary School
- Eastwood Elementary School
- Pot Spring Elementary School
- Reisterstown Elementary School
- Carney Elementary School
- Lansdowne Elementary School
- Joppa View Elementary School
- Dumbarton Middle School
- Franklin Middle School
- Golden Ring Middle School
- Stemmers Run Middle School
- Parkville Middle School
- Arbutus Middle School
- Middle River Middle School
- Southwest Academy Middle School
- Alternative Centers