Staying cool is a hot topic

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There has been much recent news coverage regarding the recurring issue of air conditioning in the Baltimore County School System.  With the school year ending this month, this is a good time to discuss current activities regarding this issue. 

Unfortunately there have been some recent political distractions involving the issue of adding air conditioning to remaining schools without it.  However, effective education of our children is too important to allow any distractions that may impair this critical function.

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Funding for school construction projects in Maryland are paid for from a combination of state and local government taxpayer-provided funding.  However, the amount of such funding approved for projects must compete with funding requirements for other government functions and priorities (e.g., public safety, road projects, etc.).  In addition, approved funding must not only pay for central air conditioning projects in public schools but also pays to build new schools (needed because of student enrollment increases) replacement schools as well as projects involving major building renovations.

The level of school construction funding is a more significant issue for Baltimore County than many other school systems because of:

– the large number of schools that we have (more than 170),

– continued increases in student enrollment, and

– the fact that we have many very old school buildings in our County (the 2nd oldest school building inventory in Maryland).

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Recent good news announced by the County will allow for significant progress in getting central air conditioning installed in most of our remaining school still in need.  The County has announced that it will provide, in advance, the State’s share (about $ 45 M) of the $ 83 M needed to install air conditioning in all remaining elementary and middle schools lacking air conditioning by the end of Fiscal Year 2017 (July 2016 – June 30, 2017).  The small number of remaining schools still in need will receive air conditioning during the next 3 fiscal years.

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This enhanced initiative is great news, speeding up relief for many students and teachers/staff who have suffered with hot and humid classrooms for too long.  The creation and maintenance of a viable classroom environment is a critical part of our mission to ensure that our students have access to a quality education.  We know that an educated workforce is essential to our County’s economic stability and future growth.

Lastly, while air conditioning it is clearly important to facilitating learning, we need to remember there are also other facilities-related and student support needs that require significant funding.  We must maintain focus on ensuring that all of our schools have access to state of the art technology that includes adequate wireless internet access in all spaces in all of our school buildings as well as procuring and supporting of hardware and software needed to enhance student learning.  Such efforts will clearly support teachers in their work to prepare our students and graduates for future 21st century educational and work opportunities.

Thank you for you interest in our schools; we know that we cannot have a Better Baltimore County now or in the future without investing in a high quality educational system in Baltimore County.