Testimony before the Montgomery County Public Schools

Board of Education

Regarding the Requested FY      Capital Budget

November 10, 2004

 

            Good evening, Dr. Weast, President Cox, Members of the Board of Education, I am Cindy Kerr, President of MCCPTA, representing 56,000+ members made up of parents, students and teachers, and here for the 140, 000 children in our schools. 

 

            I am here tonight to support the Superintendent’s Recommended FY2006 Capital Budget and Amended FY 2005-2010 CIP and to ask for your help in making it a reality. We see the evidence that MCPS is now asking for what we need, not just what we can get; that there is long-range planning; and that your aim is to systematically bring each school up to the same level of safety, security and modernization. Last year’s ambitious request was only the beginning to expand, repair, or modernize our facilities. We know that without your support, the County Council’s, and adequate State Aid, we will fall behind in reaching that goal. We need you to aggressively work to obtain more state construction revenue. We ask you to join us in our “Fix It and Fund It” campaign.

 

            We believe that every child in MCPS and throughout the state of Maryland should attend school in a safe, secure, and modern facility. That means there is enough space within the school walls for all classes to meet, core space to accommodate students for lunch, and appropriate rooms for programs such as kindergarten and science labs. It means that bathrooms are functional, drinking water is at a safe lead level, and that heating and cooling units work. It means that each child is safe traveling to and during school each day. It means that school buildings have necessary technology for today’s educational requirements.

 

            We thank you for the modernizations of Glen Haven Elementary School and Rockville High School, core improvements at Damascus High School, the conversion of the Rocky Hill Middle School, the reopening of Northwood High School, the Drew Elementary School gymnasium, and now, the groundbreaking for an addition at Matsunaga ES. Unfortunately, we are not at that point in all of our 192 schools. We still have many schools that are old and in need of modernization; many that are overcrowded and in need of additional capacity; and many buildings with safety, security, and health concerns. Additionally, current demographic trends and approved future development plans indicate that we will need even more school capacity soon. We must not reverse the strides we made last year in accelerating some modernization schedules and adding more capacity through new and reopened schools and numerous additions.

 

            We support the Superintendent’s FY 2006 Budget and amendments for ALARF, technology modification, a feasibility study for a larger addition plus core expansion and for a new school site. We support the non-capital solutions that plan for additional seat needs in terms of new schools and additions. While we know that picking a new mid-county high school site and ensuing boundary changes will be difficult, we commend you on planning for the future. Please keep parents involved and informed throughout the whole process; already there are many concerns and affected communities in need of information. Parent participation needs to be an integral part of the process from the very beginning.

 

      We recognize the effort that goes into the boundary studies and the recommended Supplements. We applaud the Boundary Study process because it is clearly defined, provides for public notification, parent and community input, and has a reasonable schedule.  Please listen carefully to the testimony by affected PTA’s on the current boundary studies; especially for the Northeast Consortium schools.

 

      We have concerns about the Supplements being offered as part of the CIP process, whether communities have had adequate time to meet to review them, form a consensus, and to comment. In general terms of the land surplus issue; we ask you to update the 1986 policy DNA to include community notification, input, and appropriate timelines. The current policy is woefully lacking. With regards to Supplement A, any change to Policy FAA should be treated like other policy revisions by providing ample time for thoughtful comment; there may be other revisions worthy of consideration in that policy. We both need time to seriously evaluate an across-the-board class size reduction before we discuss it in the context the lower ratios for construction funding. The CIP publication was the first time some communities were aware of the Supplemental recommendations and they need more than two weeks to properly respond. Please do not rush the process on any of these important decisions.

 

            Last year, you worked with us on the “Just Build It” campaign, which supported the request for many new projects, accelerated some others, and boldly proposed funding for nearly $956 million dollars over the next six years. We thank you for your efforts to plan to make more schools get to the desired level of safe, secure, and modern. This year, we ask you to join us in working to “Fix It and Fund It’- to bring even more facilities up to current space and modernization standards and, to fund it.

 

            We think that “just fix it” can refer both to the huge list of maintenance needs- PLAR, HVAC, bathrooms, safe access issues, and also to fixing the situation for schools that need quick(er) solutions to  a lack of core space or specific program space, or other facility problems while waiting for full modernizations or additions. We also draw attention to the county-wide projects category both in terms of need for increased dollars for capital maintenance projects and for the operating budget side; which includes adequate staff and supplies to “Just Fix It”.

           

            This Board has said that health and safety are priorities and yet we have a list of 47 schools with bathroom renovations scheduled to be completed by 2010.  As we spoke to parents across the county, a repeated priority was “lack of hygiene and inadequate functioning of outdated bathroom facilities.” We urge the Board to explore the means for accelerating projects related to health and safety and consider options to address every unhealthy bathroom across the county immediately—to “Just Fix It!”.

 

            Unhealthy internal building conditions including poor air quality also ranked high on the priorities list of our members. We have many examples of schools with mold or inadequate ventilation and cannot become complacent and delay where student and staff health is at issue. While we appreciate the systematic evaluation of schools for indoor air quality, the lack of funding for staff means the process is just too slow. These priorities must be reflected in increased funding and accelerated schedules—again, “Just Fix It!”.

           

            We must have a maintenance budget is prepared for new issues to arise; now unacceptable lead levels takes time and dollars to investigate and find a solution for. Parents need more than periodic reports as to the results of lead testing. We need to know what the plan will be for lead remediation, when will it be implemented, and how will it be funded? Are we going to replace fixtures that test hundreds of times above the acceptable lead level? Do we have a plan for systematically replacing filters in units where filters are placed? What are we going to do to protect the health and well-being of the students and staff in our buildings? Here’s another opportunity to Fix It! You will hear many “Just Fix It” examples over the next two nights.  

 

           

            In addition,  this past year has sadly brought out many concerns for pedestrian safety and we want to make sure that each school site is safely accessible by cars, buses, and walking students. Traffic patterns must be evaluated for maximum safety in routing buses into and out of schools, in addition to space concerns about parking crowded buses as they load/unload students onto school property.

 

To achieve the “Fund It” part of our goal, we must work to convince State officials that our needs are valid and worthy of the dollars they have to allot. We have worked together to get more County funding; it is critical this year to take aggressive action to get more state aid. We have written a letter to Governor Ehrlich asking for his commitment to the children of Maryland by providing more dollars for the State school CIP. We have a number of our PTA’s and MCCPTA officers signing this letter. We ask you join us in both supporting this letter and going to our representatives in Annapolis for support to Fund It.   Together we may make a difference.

 

I thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the children of Montgomery County and the facilities in which we educate them.