Requests For Additional School Construction Funding Come Before The Frederick County Legislative Delegation

Lawmakers also heard from Brunswick residents who want a new high school.

Frederick, Md (KM). The Frederick County School System is facing a “unique challenge” when it comes to paying for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, and school construction costs. That message was delivered to local Legislative  Delegation  during a forum last Saturday.

Board of Education President Sue Johnson said growth and repairing and replacing aging school buildings are driving up the costs, and the School System needs additional funding to meet these needs.  . She pointed to Oakdale High School, which was the only Maryland school this year to be named a Blue Ribbon School. “The students are kind to each other. They’re smart. They’ve earned that Blue Ribbon status. Everyone there is dedicated,” Johnson said. “What I want to make sure everybody knows–and I’m glad there was no newspaper story about this–was that within five years, Oakdale High School is scheduled to be at over 200 percent capacity.”

Earlier this year, the Board of Education agreed to move Brunswick High up on its priority list for replacement. “And not only do we have Brunswick High School, which is an aged facility. We have Walkersville High School. We have Middletown High School, and we have Catoctin High School. They were all constructed within a four to six-year period of each other. I think they were in Governor {Marvin} Mandel’s time back in the late ’60’s and 70’s. So they’re all aged facilities,” says Johnson.

“Our concern here on the Board of Education is that we have all these legal requirements that if we don’t get funding for, we’re not meeting our legal obligations,” Johnson continued. “And so our main concerns is how we can kind of close that gap.”

State Senator Bill Folden asked if the Board of Education was aware of the future costs of the Blueprint For Maryland’s Future. “Where was the School Board in mandating all these new requirements that had a funding source that was out here in space that wasn’t attainable at the time, and certainly wasn’t attainable now? That’s my question,” he asked.

Johnson responded that she was not on the School Board at the time the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future was discussed.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which comes with a projected $3.8-billion price tag, was approved by the General Assembly in 2020. It was vetoed by then-Governor Larry Hogan, but that veto was overridden in 2021. It calls for improvements in education emphasizing early childhood education; high quality and diverse teachers and leaders; college and career readiness; more resources for students to be successful; and governance and accountability.

Also during Saturday’s forum, local lawmakers heard from Brunswick residents who asked for funding for a new Brunswick High School. Mayor Nathan Brown said he was satisfied that the Board of Education moved up that project on its priority list for replacement. But he was worried it was in danger of being forgotten. “Let me be clear. We do not merely show up. We roll up our sleeves, we dive into the gritty details and we try to help find ways to get things done,” he said. “Our commitment to this cause is unwavering and our resolve is unyielding because our persistence is grounded in the future of the youth who may someday be sitting in your seats.”

Also speaking was Hope Bonnano, who chairs the Brunswick High School  New Build Committee. She said the county provides more funding for new schools, but not enough for repairs and replacements of older buildings. “We have followed growth as building new facilities. What we have not done is maintain the buildings that we have, or replace the buildings that have been here,” she said. “Those students and town of Brunswick, which has an APFO in place, have been severely neglected.”

An APFO is an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, which requires that facilities such as schools, roads, water and sewer services be in place before development can move forward.

The 2024 Maryland General Assembly begins on Wednesday, January 10th.

By Kevin McManus

By Kevin McManus