In toasty start to October, Olszewski announces $16M in funds for AC in Baltimore Co. schools

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Eastern Technical High School, one of six county schools due to now receive air conditioning by spring of 2021. Photo by Wallstreethotrod, via Wikimedia Commons.

On the same day Baltimore County Public Schools called off classes for half a dozen non-air conditioned facilities due to unseasonably high mid-90s temperatures, the county’s top official has announced $16 million in local dollars for AC and heating units in a handful of schools.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr.’s office said in a release that he’s identified the funds for schools without air conditioning. The state will match the county’s contribution with $13.4 million.

The combined effort will provide AC for Bedford Elementary, the Catonsville Center for Alternative Studies, Dulaney High School, Eastern Technical High School, Lansdowne High School and the Western School of Technology/Science. Hampton Elementary School will also receive a new boiler.

The facilities work is expected to be finished by spring of 2021, per the announcement.

Olszewski, a Democrat, used the announcement as a chance to chide Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for his refusal to release $127 million in General Assembly-earmarked funds that were intended to address aging school infrastructure around the state.

“Baltimore County is grateful for the state’s partnership and is ready to invest in these solutions for our children, families, and educators,” he said in a statement. “However, while we are ready to act now, our students deserve long-term solutions, not quick fixes. We again call on Governor Hogan to release severely needed school construction funds so every child in every community can have the safe, nurturing learning environment they deserve.”

Hogan in July announced during a meeting of the state’s Board of Public Works that he wouldn’t release that money or millions more budgeted for pay increases for correctional officers, extra funds for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, tax preparation assistance for low-income Marylanders and much more, in anticipation of a nearly $1 billion shortfall in fiscal 2021.

“We pledged to bring fiscal restraint to Annapolis and we have,” he said on July 3. “We must remain vigilant and fiscally prudent and be prepared for volatility in the national economy.”

Baltimore County has eight other projects it wants to complete that would have required those state dollars, but they have now been delayed, Olszewski’s announcement said.

Two of the six aforementioned schools getting new AC units–Bedford Elementary and Lansdowne High–are already scheduled to eventually be torn down and replaced anyway.

Olszewski has budgeted $15 million for planning and design work for a new Lansdowne High, and another $500,000 apiece for planning for new Towson and Dulaney high schools.

Ethan McLeod
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