Frederick County to give schools $1.5M more for upgrades -- Gazette.Net


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The Frederick County Board of Commissioners will give the county school system $1.5 million in a one-time cash payment to be used for upgrades to security, technology and infrastructure.

The money will be used to improve ventilation systems at two schools, while providing wireless Internet service and making security improvements at a number of schools, Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young said Tuesday at a meeting between the commissioners and the Frederick County Board of Education.

The money was welcomed by the school board, but as a one-time expenditure rather than recurring funding, it does little to help solve a $15 million gap between the budget the board has requested and what the commissioners have said they are willing to provide.

The seven-member board voted to send a $548.4 million budget request by Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban to the commissioners to fund what she said are needed upgrades to prevent Frederick County Public Schools from slipping from its spot as one of the state’s best systems.

“We have some more work to do,” regarding the budget, board member Kathryn B. Groth said after the meeting.

The commissioners have said they are willing to provide the $244.3 million necessary under the state’s maintenance-of-effort law, which requires counties to provide the same level of funding as they did the year before.

The remainder of the school budget comes from state and federal funding.

Young has said he is not willing to add recurring costs that the county would then be responsible for funding in the future under maintenance of effort. But the county is willing to provide one-time funding for the schools whenever it is available, he said.

He said Tuesday that other budget issues such as dealing with the county’s fire and rescue services have made it impossible without raising taxes to provide schools with anything above maintenance of effort other than one-time funding.

“There is just no reoccurring revenue,” he said.

Of the $1.5 million, $700,000 will go toward matching a state grant for security upgrades.

Part of the money will be used to create locked vestibules, which are a second set of locked doors that would force visitors to go through the main office rather than directly into schools, said Ann Bonitatibus, chief operating officer for county schools.

The school system still has to evaluate schools from an architectural perspective to see how easily they could be retrofitted to add the entry ways without seriously compromising the flow of traffic through the school, she said.

About 17 schools already have the vestibules, Bonitatibus said.

The school system will also look at replacing locks and glass panels on classroom doors to improve security, she said.

The school system will use $468,000 to add wireless Internet service to schools.

There are currently only three schools with wireless capability, but the system is aiming to have 22 schools outfitted by August or September, Deputy Superintendent Steve Lockard said.

The additional county money should let them bring wireless to all of the county’s 24 middle and high schools, he said.

With limited space to add more computer labs, wireless service will allow students with laptop computers and wireless devices to have Internet access in their own classrooms, he said.

In addition, Frederick’s Liberty Elementary School will get $172,000 to repair part of its air-conditioning system, while Brunswick High School will receive $160,000 to fix its heating and air-conditioning system.

Those two projects were set as the top priorities for the money, Groth said.

“This really does help us,” Groth said of the additional funding.

rmarshall@gazette.net