Beltsville community leaders and parents won a victory in their effort to replace the aging High Point High School, but finding funding for the project, one of many in a $2 billion-plus backlog, may take time.
On June 26, the Prince George’s County school board unanimously approved a recommendation to replace the 60-year-old building, with the exception of the auditorium, which will be renovated.
Abraham Ajenifuja, past president of the High Point PTSA, said he is grateful the school system approved the replacement.
“It’s very, very important, because of the lack of an environment suitable for our students’ learning, and technology that has outpaced the school facilities,” Ajenifuja said. “We are hoping that the kind of attention this project has received will help move this project forward.”
The project will be added to the school system’s Capital Improvement Projects list, but school system CEO Kevin Maxwell noted the school system has a $2.13 billion backlog in deferred maintenance, and that each high school replacement costs approximately $100 million. Currently, High Point is number-three on the priority list, but only for a $7 million renovation to accommodate special education inclusion renovations.
“We now have to have discussions about the six-year [CIP] plan and where it fits into that six-year plan,” Maxwell said. “It’s a matter of sitting down and looking at all the competing demands that we have and seeing what we think is the project’s appropriate place in that plan.”
A bill supported by county leaders to secure additional state funding for school construction in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore city school districts stalled in the House Appropriations Committee last spring, but Maxwell said he is hopeful the political climate has changed enough to revisit the bill.
“I think the three districts got the attention of the state legislature and I think that we have an election going on for a new governor, and that’s going to have an impact,” Maxwell said.
The proposal outlined in the recommendation calls for the new school to be built in a north-facing, U-shaped configuration, with the auditorium absorbed into a new arts and athletics wing forming one side of the school.
Construction of the new school is estimated to take 2.5 years, according to the report.
Tom Aylward, vice president of the Greater Beltsville Business Association, urged the school administration to make the project a priority.
“It’s at the gateway to our county, and it doesn’t look good, and it doesn’t help our reputation and our ability to attract businesses,” Aylward said. “Please find a way to put money into FY2015 [CIP budget]. Let’s get the project started.”