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Vote clears way for AC in Baltimore County schools

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 15, 2016

Whether it's the digital sign in front of Franklin High School welcoming a cold front rather than students, or a fan used to pull in that cold front at Church Lane Elementary, the condition of the air has been a hot topic in Baltimore County. 

But Thursday, the IAC, a state committee that oversees public school construction voted unanimously to fast track Baltimore County's effort to install air conditioning in 12 more schools.

Otherwise, these HVAC projects would have been pushed back a year, but now, by August of 2017, all elementary and middle schools will be air conditioned.

"I am glad they are fast tracking it. I just came out of the classroom now and even on a day that is 70 degrees, it is very warm in that school," said parent Ellen Wilgar.

Wilgar has a daughter in Reisterstown Elementary and is frustrated by the four days she's already missed this year.

RELATED: Baltimore County schools impacted by heat

It is an issue she feels Baltimore County should have already solved by 2016.

"I have followed a lot of the board meetings, I believe it was last week or the week before and I don't think they take it serious how hot it is in these schools for these kids," Wilgar said.

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It is a criticism County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has heard before.

"The action today will make sure we keep on this accelerated schedule and that is what we all want to do, get this job done as quickly as possible," he said.

Kamenetz says these 12 schools were always part of his $1.3 billion plan which included renovations, new schools and air conditioning.

He says in 2011 they started with 90 non air conditioned schools with an eye toward 2021 for all schools to have central air.

But it is a timeline Governor Larry Hogan publicly disagreed with and his office is happy this vote now ups that timeline to 2018.

"Listen this is a plan we had in place since 2011 before Governor Hogan took office,” Kamenetz said, “For every one dollar of state funds we're receiving, we're putting two tax dollars in. No county in the history of this state has ever spent so much on a school construction program as we are doing here in Baltimore County."

Kamenetz says regardless of timeline, his plan is building 15 new schools, adding 11 additions, 6,000 elementary school seats and central air for the entire district.

This latest vote which now expedites one of the final phases of this plan which will take $54 million from Baltimore County matched with $45 million from the state  

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