Frederick parents take stand for school improvements

By Patti S. Borda

Wednesday - 3/16/2011, 12:42pm EDT

A sea of about 100 red-shirted North Frederick Elementary School supporters cheered and clapped to get the attention of county commissioners Tuesday.

Frederick County's $407.5 million draft five-year capital improvement program does not address as many school construction projects as the audience advocated. Members of the audience told commissioners they would settle for what is on the list, but would not tolerate bumping listed projects out of order.

"For far too long the students of North Frederick have been pushed aside," said Julie Marker, whose youngest child will finish at North Frederick this year.

Marker won cheers when she said the group's trust had been tried for many years before this board took office, making it difficult to have faith that the list of projects will not change again.

"History is not on our side," she said.

Martha Stapleton asked for the new school's design to start this summer and said the project has been overdue according to the school system's assessment for 10 years. Last year the design phase was delayed until 2014, as this CIP has it scheduled.

"North Frederick must not be delayed any longer," Stapleton said before applause erupted.

All 18 speakers, including two elementary students, hope that if any funding comes available ahead of schedule, the construction phase on North Frederick will start sooner than 2015.

Like others, fourth-grader Emily Frere described mold that causes asthma attacks, ripped carpet, faulty fire alarms, crumbling ceiling tiles, out-of-date technology and climate controls, and bug infestations.

"Please come help us," she said.

"We're not looking for (the) Taj Mahal," said teacher Joe Daly. "We're looking for equity."

Kate McDermott, president of the Frederick High School Parent Teacher Student Association, described similar unsanitary and outdated conditions at the high school, which was built in the 1930s and was last renovated in 1979. The school's modernization project is scheduled for 2015 through 2017 at a cost of about $70 million. McDermott hoped the feasibility study could start sooner.

"We are realists," McDermott said. "But we also adamantly believe the renovation cannot be delayed further."

For now, Lincoln Elementary School replacement is the only school project scheduled to start in 2012.

The proposed 2012 capital improvement budget of $43.8 million also includes a Frederick fire/rescue station, Boyers Mill Road Bridge work and renovation of the Frederick Community College Science/Tech Hall.

An Oakdale Elementary School addition is on the list for 2013 to alleviate serious overcrowding, Commissioners President Blaine Young said.

Brunswick High School's renovation is scheduled beyond the five-year planning period.

The same is true for additions/renovations to Middletown and Walkersville high schools, Crestwood, Oakdale and Urbana middle schools, and Urbana and Valley elementary schools.

Daly and two other speakers urged the county to do more to address systemic maintenance needs at schools and extend the useful lives of the schools.

The commissioners will discuss the public comments March 24 during their regular meeting.

Young gave his word that he would not support changing the order of projects.

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