Representatives from District 13 in the Maryland General Assembly sent the following letter to the Interagency Commission on School Construction concerning Talbott Springs Elementary School and Hammond High School:

Dear Members of the Interagency Commission on School Construction:

The undersigned, Senator Guzzone, Delegate Atterbeary, Delegate Pendergrass, and Delegate Terrasa, the representatives of District 13 in the Maryland General Assembly, respectfully request that you do whatever it takes to make sure that the replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary School and the renovation and expansion of Hammond High School receive the state funding needed to move forward this year and to remain on schedule. These two high priority projects in our district are urgently needed to address capacity needs as well as adverse conditions that impact the education and welfare of our students.

The need for an expansion and renovation of Hammond High School was originally identified as part of a Facilities Condition & Program Assessment of all twelve Howard County high schools and has been a proposed capital project for many years, originally scheduled for completion in 2016. We share the concerns identified in this assessment and those raised by many of our constituents including concerns about ADA compliance, the lack of a security vestibule, doors that can’t be secured, not enough sinks so that science students are forced to use buckets to wash lab equipment, and undersized special education facilities despite a large special education population at Hammond. Other areas identified as inadequate include areas for gifted & talented, physical education, guidance, the health room, the student support center, and music education. The absence of an auxiliary gym means Hammond’s team practices are 30 minutes shorter than every other school so over the course of the season, our student-athletes lose a full 2 weeks of practice. This lack of equity affects our athletic program as well as students wanting scholarships and their ability to be competitive, compared to the rest of the county. Issues have also been raised with respect to mold and drinking water at Hammond. Unfortunately, many of these issues continued to worsen while the community has waited for the concerns to be addressed as part of the renovation and expansion. This can no longer wait.

With respect to Talbott Springs Elementary School, for far too long, students, teachers, and administrators have struggled with aging and outdated conditions. Talbott Springs is known to be one of the most overcrowded elementary schools in Howard County and has been ranked as one the worst facilities in the public school system. The school first opened its doors to our community in 1973 and partial renovations in 2000 included some partitioning (partial height walls) and “paint and patch” work but no systems were replaced. These systems are now over 40 years old and can no longer be maintained. Talbott Springs has an obsolete layout that is noisy and does not contribute to a productive learning environment. Over the years, our offices have received countless reports that TSES has ongoing concerns with mold, challenges with the school’s fountain drinking water, leaks from the roof, portable classrooms, insufficient security, and lack of program space. Additionally, Talbott Springs Elementary School serves one of the county’s most disadvantaged communities. It provides many resources outside the routine school functions such as collecting food and clothing and providing space for professional community liaisons and/or social workers. The existing building uses any and all available space, such as storage closets and teacher planning spaces to provide these much needed services. Regrettably, the ongoing problems and disruptions experienced daily because of the school’s inadequate and aging condition have continued to worsen because of the anticipation that these concerns would instead be addressed by replacing the building.

As you may know, Howard County is among Maryland’s fastest growing counties. Over the past five years, enrollment has increased by approximately 1,000 students annually. Capital planning by the Howard County Public School System balances the need to provide additional classroom seats, especially in the fastest-growing areas in our county, while maintaining older schools to ensure safety and efficiency, and accommodate new instructional priorities and the needs of changing student populations. The replacement of Talbott Springs and the Hammond renovation and expansion are critical to addressing the capital needs of this rapidly growing student population. We have had the opportunity to serve the Talbott Springs and Hammond Communities for many years in the state legislature (and some of us while on the county council) and we have toured their schools on numerous occasions, engaging with parents who want and deserve better for their children. We are committed to equity in our school system, so it is especially disturbing to see the possible postponement of the much needed and long-awaited projects at two relatively high FARM schools. The families in these communities deserve equitable treatment and for promises to be kept.

We request the IAC give the replacement of TSES and the renovation and expansion of Hammond High an A status and award these projects the state funding needed to move forward and remain on schedule.

Sincerely,

Guy Guzzzone Senator, District 13
Vanessa Atterbeary Delegate, District 13
Shane Pendergrass Delegate, District 13
Jen Terrasa Delegate, District 13

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Here you can find the letter shared by HoCoBOE member Chao Wu: CLICK HERE

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As a resident of District 13 in Howard County I love seeing my elected officials step up and support our local community. Good job Team 13!!!

Hopefully the elected members in District 9 and 12 send similar letters to the Interagency Commission on School Construction if they have not already.

Scott E