The Baltimore County (Md.) School Board of Education has voted to forgo renovation of Lansdowne High School and redirect funds toward construction of a new school.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the board voted 8 to 3 to request that the renovation money — $60 million in two phases — be put toward a new Lansdowne High School. The vote means the process of seeking a new building, which could cost more than $100 million, will have to begin anew.
“It is now on the capital plan as a replacement project,” Nick Stewart, vice chair of the board, said of the $60 million. “That’s an important step within the public process.”
In seeking a new building at Lansdowne, the board backed away from a proposed $39.2 million contract for the first phase of renovation work.
“We believe the money that’s been allocated for Lansdowne represents a great commitment," Stewart says, "however, we want to repurpose those dollars for the purpose of a replacement. This is a signal and a sign of what our desires are.”
Pete Dixit, executive director of facilities management for Baltimore County Public Schools, says a new Lansdowne will require a feasibility study and will be treated as a new project.
During the board meeting, some members wondered if moving forward with renovations would be better for students because a new school could take a decade to study, design and construct.
“My question is reality,” says board member David Uhlfelder. “If we vote down the renovation and this takes a 10-year project, what is the community going to say to us? I’d rather amortize $3 million a year … and at least have the kids in a degree of comfort. We’ve had professionals tell us that this will resolve our problems.”
The Lansdowne community had been told that accepting renovations over a replacement would be the best course forward because a new school could take years longer to complete than renovations.
For some, the back-and-forth over which schools would be renovated or redone is indicative of a more systemic issue in the county.
“We in this county have not had, and still do not have, a truly nonpolitical way of outlining projects that we want to get funded for the next 10 years in our capital plan,” says Stewart.