On June 30, MACo’s School Construction Symposium opened at Rolling Knolls Elementary School in Anne Arundel County for an audience of county, state and school officials, and members of the construction industry.
The Symposium drew experts together to share ways to mitigate rising school construction costs, including growing Maryland’s construction workforce, building prototype school designs, and employing private partnerships in school construction financing.
The State of Our Schools
The day began with a presentation by Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the DC-based nonprofit 21st Century School Fund. Mary presented the report, The State of Our Schools: America’s K-12 Facilities.
The report, which compiles and analyzes the best available school district data about US K–12 public school facilities funding, projects that going forward, our nation will under-invest in school buildings by $46 billion annually.
Filardo’s report shows that Maryland spends more on maintenance of schools than many other states. She posited that high spending on maintenance could be an indication that capital spending on new facilities is too low in Maryland, leading to aging infrastructure that requires costly emergency repairs.
A Maryland Perspective
Next, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch, shared a historical perspective on Maryland’s school construction program and spoke about the 21st Century School Facilities Commission which was recently created by the Presiding Officers.
The Speaker described the State’s strong commitment to school construction as a commitment that has been upheld over the course of several administrations and as a contributing factor to Maryland’s high ranking for education excellence nationwide. He said that while Maryland differs from other states in that its school districts do not have independent taxing authority, there are efficiencies gained through the size of Maryland’s school districts.
The 21st Century School Facilities Commission, Busch said, will be looking at the school construction process to see if there are ways that the State can invest more wisely. While the State has surpassed the investment goal set by the last Commission on School Construction, there has been cost escalation and cost increases since then.
“Throughout the State, the demands are the same: people want the best school system for their children.” – Speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch
21st Century Factors
Over lunch, attendees heard a presentation from Dr. David Lever, Executive Director of the Public School Construction Program and Gary Brennan, Board Member of the Maryland State Educational Association on the 21st Century Factors that shape our schools.
Lever and Brennan shared the dramatic changes that have taken place in school design, focusing on differences brought about by new technology, new regulations, and changing pedagogy. They discussed how the public’s expectations of schools, and the school’s role in the community have changed over the years.
Keeping up with changes presents fiscal challenges, and, when school facilities fall behind, teachers may be left in a tough spot. As described,
“Buildings don’t always change, even when teaching methods have to.” – Gary Brennan, Frederick County Public School Teacher and Maryland State Education Association Board Member
Following lunch, attendees were treated to a guided tour of the Rolling Knolls facility. Rolling Knolls is a new school that was opened to students this past Spring. The new school was built on the site of an existing facility and is more than double the size of the previous school. The school is a prototype design that has been used more than 10 times in Anne Arundel County.
Tour guides for the Symposium included Anne Arundel County Public Schools officials:
- Alex Szachnowicz, Chief Operating Officer
- Lisa Seaman-Crawford, Director of Facilities, and
- Larry Alberts, Manager – Planning
For more information, stay tuned. Conduit Street will be publishing a series of articles on the day’s panels and conversations over the course of the next week.