After the County Council adopted its operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2013, many south county residents contacted Patch wondering how it affected them directly.
After sitting down with Councilman Jerry Walker (R-7th District) for an in-depth look at the $1.2 billion operating budget and $181 million capital budget, Patch learned about several major developments coming to the area.
In the first installment of this two-part story, Patch discussed the new $750,000 parking lot coming to Southern High, the council’s approval of more than 120 new county school positions and $340,000 field lights coming to Southern Middle School. In addition to the new positions, the Board of Education released a preliminary list showing that District 7 schools will receive at least nine new teachers next year, from funds received after the state Board of Education ruled that the county did not meet its maintenance of effort regulations in the fiscal year 2012 budget.
Walker emphasized that the south county items in the budget were directly the issues he heard the most about from residents.
“These were the projects I received the most contact about from emails, phone calls, et cetera,” Walker said.
Lothian Elementary Gets a Makeover
The largest allocation of funds in south county is going directly to Lothian Elementary School for “a complete rebuild.” The money isn’t for renovations—developers will completely rebuild the school, Walker said.
Approximately $14.2 million is secured for the school, which has experienced additions in 1966 and 1977, according to Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) spokesman Bob Mosier. Lothian Elementary’s gymnasium was constructed in the 1970s, but the rebuild effort is a much-needed one, Walker said.
New schools cost about $30 million, so Walker said more money will be allocated to complete construction at Lothian Elementary in the fiscal year 2014 budget. Some of the funds for the rebuild came from the Maryland Board of Public Works, which gave $33 million to Anne Arundel County for school construction efforts in May.
“The school community has been very active in the budget process and our building has had some additions over the years but we still basically have a very old infrastructure. We’re very excited,” said Lothian Elementary principal Melissa Brown. “The kids are so excited. We couldn’t be more pleased with how the process has worked."
The children who have moved up to middle school and won’t be able to enjoy the $14.2 million construction effort are actually “bummed” they’ll miss out on the new technology and facilities, Brown said.
Lothian’s “rebuilding” is scheduled to be complete for the 2015-16 school year, Brown said. The students will occupy Lothian Elementary next year, then spend two years at another campus before finally coming home to their new school.
As the biggest budget project in south county, Walker reiterated his excitement to secure funding for the region.
“Out of the dollars I was able to get for the district, the bulk went to south county,” Walker said.
What about Edgewater Elementary?
Throughout the process of determining the budget, Edgewater Elementary School parents attended numerous school board meetings, pleading to be moved up the list of schools to receive renovations.
Dozens of concerned parents testified before the board claiming that the school’s air quality was so poor that it was causing physical harm to their children. However, Superintendent Kevin Maxwell’s proposed budget did not include the school on a list of projects up to the 2017 school year.
Over the past several months, the school board hired a third-party, air quality specialist to examine Edgewater Elementary’s indoor atmosphere. He reported that while he did find mold, many of the problems could be solved with newer equipment.
When asked what can be done to expedite renovations at Edgewater Elementary, Walker said it comes down to urging the Board of Education to execute an MGT study—an in-depth look at the school’s physical plant, educational suitability and capacity. The school system’s most recent MGT study was done in 2005.
“My understanding is that AACPS did make changes based on [the air quality specialist's] recommendations. They corrected it—added new maintenance equipment and sealed holes,” Walker said.
In an email sent by Walker to Edgewater Elementary parents following the County Council’s adoption of the fiscal year 2013 budget, he wrote: “I introduced an amendment to fund a feasibility study for Edgewater Elementary in the coming fiscal year. As you know … there were other elementary schools in the county that felt like they should also be taken out of order from the Board of Ed’s budget due to their schools’ conditions. None of these amendments were ultimately successful.”
Walker also said he feels the MGT at Edgewater Elementary study should be reconfigured to reflect changes that have taken place over the last seven years.