By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Maryland public schools are entering a mini-building boom, fueled by nearly $250 million in state construction funds announced this month.
That sum is about double the amount approved a year ago, said state officials, and the highest in five years.
The state's two largest school systems -- Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- will receive the largest amounts under the plan approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Each of the other 22 systems also will get a share.
"Building new schools and modernizing existing ones is a critical component to giving our students a first-class education," Ehrlich said in a statement.
In Southern Maryland, the state earmarked $3.4 million for Calvert County for six elementary school additions for all-day kindergarten; $8.3 million for Charles County, including $5.3 million to build North Point High in Waldorf; and $3 million for St. Mary's County, two-thirds of that for a new George Washington Carver Elementary in Great Mills.
School construction is heavily vetted in Maryland.
Local officials submit proposals each fall to the Interagency Committee on School Construction, which is led by state School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. Other panelists are the state general services secretary and state planning secretary. A new state law this year added to the panel members appointed by the state Senate president and state House speaker.
The committee screens the proposals and sends the Board of Public Works -- which is composed of the governor, state comptroller and state treasurer -- a list for approval. Then state lawmakers appropriate funding. After a final review by the construction committee, the executive branch distributes the money.
This year there was plenty to go around.
In Anne Arundel County, $19.5 million will flow to 13 projects. The largest chunk is $5.5 million to overhaul Marley Middle in Glen Burnie. In Howard County, which is receiving $15.3 million, the biggest sums are $5.9 million to build Marriotts Ridge High in Marriottsville and $6.3 million for a new elementary school in Dayton, in the western part of the county.
In Prince George's, a new high school in Upper Marlboro will draw nearly half of the county's share of the state money, $14 million out of $29.8 million. School and county officials are weighing whether and how to find additional money to help pay for a 5,000-seat gymnasium there that has no state funding. The school, more than half-built, is scheduled to open in August 2006.
In addition, $4.3 million will be used for a new elementary school in Bowie and roof replacements at seven campuses.
In Montgomery, $30.4 million is headed for 23 projects. The largest, construction of a new Richard Montgomery High in Rockville, will get $12.4 million. Ground was broken there this month.
An additional $6.8 million will be used to upgrade Silver Spring's Northwood High, which reopened last fall with a class of ninth-graders. Other funds will pay for portable classrooms at various campuses and roof replacements at Damascus High, Gaithersburg Middle, Benjamin Banneker Middle in Burtonsville, Rosemary Hills Elementary in Silver Spring and Strawberry Knoll Elementary in Gaithersburg.
Staff writers Lori Aratani and Ylan Q. Mui contributed to this report.