Under Current Funding Levels, Improvements Would Take 27 YearsBy CBS Baltimore Staff

TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County’s public high schools will likely need $1.2 billion in capital improvements over a seven-year period, an initial report analyzing the school system’s infrastructure needs found.

The report, released Tuesday and put together by consultants from CannonDesign, outlines $448 million in need to address capacity issues within county high schools and another $349 million needed to improve the schools’ conditions.

The remaining $423 million is needed to address educational adequacy and equity, including factors like safety, technology and educational programming, according to the report.

Roughly one-fifth of the improvements — $244 million — are listed as being “critical,” mainly to address overcrowded schools.

To address space concerns and a projected increase of 1,700 high school students over the next decade, the report recommends the school system explore additions to numerous high schools or build new ones after soliciting community feedback. An initial community survey saw more than 22,000 responses county-wide.

Redistricting is also listed as a way to address capacity, with the possibility of current students being grandfathered in to avoid changing schools.

With current funding levels from the state and county, the improvements outlined in the report would take an estimated 27 years to complete. Even if additional funding were to come through the state through the Built To Learn Act of 2020 that passed in the General Assembly earlier this year, the improvements would still take 15 years, the report concluded.

Without additional state funding, the report recommends prioritizing renovations at all schools over 15 years.

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In May, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a multi-billion-dollar school spending plan put forth by the Kirwan Commission, citing the “economic turmoil” resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every student in Baltimore County, regardless of their zip code, deserves access to a safe, modern school facility that meets the needs of their community,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski said in a news release Wednesday morning. “With aging infrastructure and a growing population, we have significant needs at the high school level, and these initial recommendations will serve as a critical resource as we work to ensure equitable allocation of resources throughout the County.”

In the release, Superintendent Darryl Williams called the plan “an important step forward on the path toward ensuring that all of our school buildings offer the type of physical environment most conducive for teaching and learning.”

Tuesday’s report was the first phase of a multi-year improvement plan, which is set to have a final report next fall. A second phase report, including a district-wide master plan for all schools, is set to be released in the spring.

CBS Baltimore Staff

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