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The Harford County Board of Education is requesting $14.6 million from the county for air-conditioning installation projects at two elementary schools and the Center for Educational Opportunity, even though board members are doubtful the funding will be available.

Before approving the FY2012 capital improvement program at Monday’s meeting, the school board added air-conditioning installation projects for William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon, Youth’s Benefit Elementary in Fallston and the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen.

Those are the only three schools in the county that aren’t fully air-conditioned.

“This is conceptually something the board has been working on for at least 10 years to get all of our schools air-conditioned,” board member Robin Rich said, noting the projects are ranked last on the school system’s list of 11 priorities. “It is highly unlikely we will get the funding, but it is our obligation to work for a level playing field for all students in Harford County ... We are keeping those projects on the front burner so when the money does open up those projects are not lost.”

The board then approved its $57.8 million FY2012 capital improvement program, which seeks $24.7 million from the state and $33.1 million from the county.

The FY2012 program also includes an additional $3 million county request for HVAC system projects at Jarrettsville and Magnolia elementary schools, which were ranked a high priority.

The school system received $34.7 million for its FY2011 capital improvement program: $13.8 million from the state and $20.8 million from the county, according Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations, who presented the new capital program to the board.

FY2012 details

The FY2012 program includes $5.8 million for the William Paca building air-conditioning installation project, $4.8 million for Youth’s Benefit Elementary’s primary building and $4 million for areas of the Center for Educational Opportunity building.

Brown said the proposed HVAC equipment has a life expectancy of 15 years. He said the air-conditioning units can be reused, but the piping cannot.

“It has been a long time that we [the school board] have been trying to work on having all of our buildings at a reasonable temperature when it is hot outside,” board president Mark Wolkow said.

Wolkow said the recession has affected planned renovation and modernization of Youth’s Benefit and William Paca elementary schools, which is why the school system has decided to move forward with air-conditioning installation projects instead of concentrating on replacement buildings.

“It may be 10 years before those [school modernization projects] actually happen,” he said.

The school system is not requesting any money from the state or the county for replacement schools for Youth’s Benefit or William Paca in FY2012, but an expectation of a future request for design funding from the county is indicated for FY2015.

Board member Alysson Krchnavy agreed the air-conditioning installation projects are important.

“If you sit in a classroom in May and it is 78 degrees in there, you are not going to get a whole lot of language taught, it is just not going to happen and our kids don’t get a second chance,” she said. “We may not get it [the funding] through this time, but if we don’t ask, the subject is moot.”

In addition to the air-conditioning projects, nearly a third of the capital budget request from the county — $9.4 million — is for technology infrastructure. The project is not, however, ranked as a priority in the FY2012 program.

Getting state reimbursement for three replacement schools and one new elementary school — projects either completed or under way — remains at the top of this list for FY2012.

The school system is requesting $426,520 from the state for the Bel Air High replacement, $1.9 million for the Deerfield Elementary replacement, $13.3 million for the Edgewood High replacement and $4.8 million for construction of the new Red Pump Elementary.

The school system is also seeking local planning approval — but no money — from the state for the Homestead Wakefield Elementary School modernization project and the John Archer School addition on the Bel Air Middle and High school campus.

These two projects will, however, have a local funding request for design services in FY2013, according to the capital program approved Monday.

Additional county funds were also requested for various projects that were not ranked among the priorities. Those projects include ADA improvements and surveys, athletic fields repairs and restoration, sewer backflow prevention, the band uniform refresh program, career and technology education equipment, energy conservation measures, music equipment refresh program, playground equipment, security cameras and swimming pool renovations, among others.


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