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Prince George’s asks state for money to repair aging schools

Prince George’s County has asked the state of Maryland for $118.1 million to fund school construction projects.

The amount is $20.2 million more than what the county asked for last year.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and the County Council sent a joint letter this week to the Interagency Committee on State School Construction, which oversees school projects in the state, prioritizing the projects the county wants funded.

The request “addresses the many needs faced by our county’s school such as replacement of current facilities, renovations and additional elementary seats,” the letter reads.

The priorities are divided into groups, including projects that have received state planning approval; projects under design and in need of state planning approval; and projects that focus on system replacement and renovations.

The biggest ticket item is for $9.9 million for a renovation at Glenarden Woods Elementary School. The county is also asking the state for $8.3 million for planning approval for limited renovations to the Bowie High School Annex. The letter says the planning approval will allow the county to move forward on the construction projects.

According to the Fiscal Year 2015 capital program, the school system is requesting $330.3 million in county and state funds to build, renovate and repair schools.

Nearly $51 million would be spent on renovations and about $70 million on other projects, including replacing roofs, sprinkler systems, pipes and ventilation systems at some schools.

The county’s full endorsement of the board’s request to the state is a departure from last year’s stance when Baker suggested that the County Council reduce the board’s request by $12.1 million. The council backed the school board’s request instead.

The request comes after the county had to return $1.4 million to the state after it failed earlier this year to approve school construction contracts within a two-year deadline.

Schools Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell said the school system had temporary leadership handling the Capital Improvement Program. It has since hired Sarah Woodhead as its director and has met with the state to settle past issues.

In September, when the funding issue was first reported, Lever said the lapse could be taken into account when the state considers future funding for county projects.

“It’s a red flag that has to be taken into account,” Lever said. “They have to assure us that the money that is allotted is going to be spent.”

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.



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