County budget includes funding for new schools
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:14

photo by Roland Dorsey

New Dundalk-area elementary schools planned 

by Nicole Rodman

    Two new 700-seat elementary schools will be built in Dundalk, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced during his fiscal year 2015 budget presentation last Tuesday.
    One school will serve as a replacement for Berkshire Elementary School and will be built on the site of the current school.
    The other school will serve the Battle Grove and Charlesmont communities.
    While 6th District Del. John Olszewski Jr. speculated that the current Battle Grove and Charlesmont elementary schools may be consolidated into one new school building, he was uncertain of specific details.
    With county schools on spring break, attempts to reach representatives of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) for more information were unsuccessful as of press time.
    The new school construction in Dundalk is just part of the county executive’s proposed decade-long Schools for Our Future program.
    Unveiled during last week’s budget proposal, Schools for Our Future is a $1.1 billion school renovation and construction program designed to address aging infrastructure and overcrowding in county schools.
    According to a press release issued by Baltimore County, 80 percent of county school buildings are more than 40 years old.
    In addition, enrollment in county schools is projected to increase by 9,300 students from 2010 to 2020.
    The Schools for Our Future program would fund 11,000 new or replacement seats worth of capacity for county schools.
    The program builds on the new school construction already completed in the county since 2011.
    “Today’s budget proposal designates a record funding request of nearly $460 million in county funds over the next three referenda for school renovation and construction,” Kamenetz noted in his budget proposal.
    “When combined with anticipated supplemental state funding of at least $240 million, the total investment in our county schools for the decade from 2011 to 2021 will be in excess of a billion dollars.”
    The first referendum, a request for $158 million, will go before voters in November.
    In addition to school construction and renovation, Kamenetz’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal also includes most of the $1.38 billion in funding requested by BCPS superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance in his January budget proposal.
    The county budget includes funding for additional staff, including faculty for the new Mays Chapel Elementary School.
    The budget also provides funding for Dr. Dance’s STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) digital conversion program, including $4 million to complete the conversion to wireless Internet in classrooms and $3.8 million for instructional materials for the new digital curriculum.
    The budget also provides $2.5 million for the new One-Card safety identification system and $171,000 for prekindergarten expansion.
    “This was a bold budget request, and the county executive deserves credit for being bold as well,” Dr. Dance said in a statement. “He has embraced the changes we need to make – planning for more than 5,000 new students projected to arrive in the next decade and for the 21st-Century learning environment those students – and the ones learning in our classroom today – will need.”
    For his part, Councilman John Olszewski Sr. also lauded the county executive.
    “Kamenetz will go down as the education county executive,” Olszewski told The Eagle. “This is an older county, and he’s been replacing infrastructure and putting air conditioning in schools that didn’t have it. Only 20 percent of the schools in the county don’t have air conditioning now.”
    The Baltimore County Council will vote on Kamenetz’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget on May 22.
    If approved by the council, the budget will take effect on July 1.