Baltimore City Public Schools Plan 10-Year Investment

BALTIMORE — In November, Baltimore City Public Schools’ CEO Andres Alonso unveiled a $2.4 billion, 10-year plan to bring the district’s school buildings up to 21st century standards. The plan, 21st Century Buildings for Our Kids: Baltimore City Public Schools’ Proposed 10-Year Plan Recommendations, is the single largest public investment ever in the school system.

For years, the district’s students have attended schools with poor conditions, lacking such basics as drinking water and sufficient wiring capable of supporting computers and air conditioning. In fact, almost 75 percent of the school buildings were built between 1946 and 1985, and 25 percent were built before World War II. Plus, the district only uses less than two-thirds of the space in the 183 buildings across 163 campuses.

With these factors in mind, the school board created a 10-year strategy that will affect all district buildings, hoping to link the district’s portfolio size with enrollment and place students in better learning environments. The plan includes renovating or replacing 136 school buildings, vacating 26 buildings, reducing the district’s portfolio from 163 to 137 school campuses and increasing the usage rate of the buildings from 65 percent to 77 percent.

“This is a historic moment in Baltimore — one around which we should all rally. Never before have we planned to make such a significant investment in the lives of Baltimore’s children,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, co-chair, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) in a statement. “Two generations — 40 years — is a long time to wait. This is long overdue, and I am glad that all segments of the community agree that this represents an opportunity to provide the new and/or improved buildings needed to transform the education atmosphere for children.”

The development of the plan started in early 2011 when Baltimore City Public Schools contracted Jacobs Project Management to assess the conditions of the buildings within the district. The Jacobs report was released in spring 2012 and rated the district Facility Condition Index at 60 percent, which means it has a portfolio of “facilities in very poor condition” and the average educational adequacy score for the district was rated at 55 percent, aka a “failing grade,” according to the report. It also showed that Baltimore City Schools was only using 65 percent of its available space, particularly among middle and high schools.

The school board will vote on the plan in January. Once approved, it — along with the financing proposal — will go to Maryland’s General Assembly, in which lawmakers will vote during the 2013 session on if Baltimore City Public Schools will receive future capital funds as a block grant and get a new school construction authority to oversee the finances of the 10-year project.

If it is passed, the plan recommends four school program closures by the end of the 2012-2013 school year, allowing for the district to start reducing excess capacity. These schools programs are Baltimore Rising Star Academy, Garrison Middle School, Patapsco Elementary/Middle School and William C. March Middle School.