Howard County Executive Calvin Ball sent the following letter to the Interagency Committee on School Construction on January 21st concerning funding for Talbott Springs ES and Hammond HS:
Dear Members of the Interagency Commission on School Construction:
First and foremost, I wish to thank you for providing $13.9 million to advance the New High School #13 project, which will expand capacity to 1,658 high school students at a time when school capacity issues are becoming increasingly significant. However, I am writing you today to underscore the urgency and need for providing State funding to support both the Talbott Springs Elementary School (TSES) replacement and Hammond High School (HHS) renovation and addition projects. These projects represent top priorities for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and for Howard County as a whole, and both projects will address critical structural issues that are barriers to the effective education of hundreds of students in the County. Many of the issues noted below were also raised by State legislative members who represent the 13th district and Delegation members in neighboring districts, whom I wish to thank for their advocacy as well.
On May 31, 2018, I wrote to you urging your support for the replacement of TSES, noting that “the school is no longer structurally sufficient – there are leaks which lead to mold, mold in classrooms and in the cafeteria, a rodent infestation, and much more.” Regrettably, the conditions at TSES are largely the same as they were over 18 months ago. Overcrowding remains a significant issue – TSES is one of the most overcrowded elementary schools in Howard County, with two grades of students currently housed in portable classrooms outside of the main building. TSES is equipped with several outdated open classrooms with no doors that are disruptive to learning and present serious risks to the safety and security of students. The school continues to suffer with an HVAC system that is well past its useful life. The issues with mold have been documented and continue to persist. Further, the continued failure to support the TSES replacement project presents an equity issue as this school serves one of the more historically underserved communities in Howard County. To date, the County has provided $17.55 million in funding to support this important project.
As to the HHS renovation and addition project, this capital improvement effort has been delayed for nearly a decade, compounding substandard conditions at a school that has never received a full renovation since its opening in 1976. HHS is over capacity and is forced to utilize several portable classrooms to offset overflow. ADA accessibility issues exist throughout the school, including at bathrooms, entrances and access to the stage in the school auditorium. HHS remains the only high school in Howard County without an auxiliary gym, forcing athletic team practices to be shortened and in some cases relocated to local middle and elementary schools. The renovation and addition project addresses several critical needs, including the addition of a second floor to HHS that would add 200 seats, and the sorely needed update of the HVAC system in the auditorium. To date, the County has provided $16.5 million in funding to support this important project.
It is imperative that we keep up with the demands of providing an adequate environment that is conducive to the learning and development of our students. By choosing to confer a B status recommending the deferral of funding to both the TSES replacement and HHS renovation and expansion projects at the December 12, 2019 IAC meeting, we are failing to provide that environment to the students of these two schools. I urge you to reconsider your decision and to award an A status to both projects and to provide the state funding needed to keep each on schedule for completion.
Howard County Executive
Here is a PDF of the letter sent on January 21st: CLICK HERE
It is good to see our elected officials continue to advocate for TSES and HHS. Hopefully our county finds the money to continue to move these projects forward. If not, hopefully the school systems looks at other ways to begin making progress other than an all or nothing approach.