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October 8, 2009

Student pictures of dilapidated school buildings on display

Baltimore Freedom Academy students and members of the Maryland ACLU were in Washington, D.C., this week to view the work of the students, who took photographs of their run-down city schools for an exhibition called "Through Your Lens."  The exhibition, which spotlights the problems of antiquated buildings across the nation, is on display in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington. The work can be viewed online as well.

In 2004, a task force studying school facilities found that it would take $4 billion to bring buildings up to minimum adequacy, according to the ACLU. In Baltimore City, the school system said it needed $2.7 billion to modernize all of its schools.

Recently, more money has been designated to school construction, but the ACLU says it is not enough to keep up with the problems.

Baltimore City is not the only one with problems. Parents in Baltimore County have been fighting to get air conditioning installed in several recently renovated middle schools.

The city school system agrees with the students about the need to improve facilities. Edie House, a spokeswoman for the school system, said in an e-mail: "We have documented that we have the oldest and neediest infrastructure in the state. Combined funding from the state and the city this year was less than $50 million. We are thankful for the aid we have received given the current fiscal crisis." She added, however, that the amount of aid is still not enough.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Around the Region


It would be economically easier to level some of the buildings and build a new one. Most of the older buildings do not have enough infrastructure to support additional duct work or electrical supply without ripping out walls and other things. At my school, we could build an entire new facility on the land adjoining the current building and then tear down the old one when the new one is built. Sure, it might interrupt the sports programs for a time but the overall effect would be worth it. Our students deserve better.

Check out some of our kids who participated in the project on Marc Steiner's show yesterday,

Also, special shout out to Briauna Wills who was not on the radio yesterday but stole the show with her speech in the senate building on Monday.

We want to hear about your concerns. Last week a teacher called to tell me about her experience at her city school building and how it exacerbates her symptoms of asthma. Her school has very poor ventilation and she now has to take medication which will hopefully keep her in the classroom.

We can have an impact on this issue but we need to tell our city, state, and federal leaders that funding is NEEDED!

Please contact me at or at 410.889.8550 x 123. Thank you!

The Historic Frederick Douglass High School is the second oldest historically African American public high school (established in 1883), and the oldest continuously operating public high school in the United States. Like most schools in Baltimore City, the Historic Frederick Douglass High School continue to deals with many facility related issues which we believe, when coupled with other socio-economic issues, compromises our students ‘ ability to achieve their maximum potential. Some of these issues date back to 1995, and include, but are not limited to an electrical system which does not support today’s technology needs, an uneven distribution of heat, water fountains which cannot be used, some windows which don’t open, and some windows which don’t close, an entire floor of the building unable to be used for educational purposes, as well as an elevator which has major problems, and often renders the school out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. These are but a few of the school’s facility related issues. The Alumni Association of the Historic Frederick Douglass High School supports any and all efforts, whether to build a new facility, or to renovate the existing facility, to obtain adequate funding from Baltimore City, the State of Maryland and the Federal Government which would enable the creation of an environment conducive to the promotion of academic excellence, and restoration of pride, dignity and excellence at our beloved alma mater.

overly simplistic fun with numbers that still make you go hmmm

"209729 attending 347 schools" = 604 (avg) per building; @25 students per room = 24 class rooms per building

otoh... 209,729 students @25 students per room = 8389 class rooms /250 actually whole and functioning buildings = 34 classrooms per building.

(sell the worst for redevelopment and use the proceeds to refurbish the remaining 250 worth keeping. Heck, just give away the 97 worst and transfer the housekeeping and maintenance and utility and other plant costs to the 250 (hopefully) worth keeping.

Anybody know how much Hopkins spent to redo the old Eastern High School? It seems to be an example for what could be done whith some of the older schools.

And the comment about Douglas... I wonder if Forest Park lost stature in its "new" building. Old timers don't connect to the "new" building. Just as I have heard old Poly Alumni chime about being in the "old" Poly.

Post by ACLU Frank Patinella @ dilapidated school buildings concerns.

Q&A reply with regard to ACLU valued input on the policies of the BCPSS board commissioners regarding their facilities committee actions, confirm that ACLU messages have been received and confirm what ACLU valued input concerning improving facilities change impact has been?

Q&A reply what continued involvement or work to strengthen ACLU relationship with the board of commissioners facilities committee or citizens, and stakeholders in proving information feedback has ACLU valued input on facilities concerns for the BCPSS with the board of school commissioners to invite open public forum input and involvement?
I agree more facilities budget funding is needed. Your quote FP: "We can have an impact on this issue but we need to tell our city, state, and federal leaders that funding is NEEDED!"

But we first need ACLU to provide some back ground to the public how has your organization had any impact on this facilities issue.

What I cannot understand is when did we decide it was acceptable to work in, and send our children to, such places for 180 days of the year? When did the parents and kids decide that they were going to accept what had been offered - broken windows, heat and cooling systems that didn't work, bathrooms that didn't have door, heck, door knobs that weren't there. And when did the system decide that it was going to stand for the state of things with the state? I know that prisoners have sued over less (google it if you like) and wonder why the students and families and people who work in these places don't band together and do the same.

I am so proud of the kids who took this on and the adults who helped guide them towards this. I can only hope it gets some action although as we all know, if any action is taken it will be only a band-aid and then only for the building they are in. There will be no systemic attacking of the problem.

On the flip side of this is the question of responsibility once things have gotten fixed. I am almost sure that it isn't the staff who have repeatedly knocked the hand soap dispensers off the walls, who took the paper towel and blocked up the toilets and who pee on the floor. Are students willing to take on their peers and hold them responsible for caring for the buildings if/when things, even small things are fixed?


For more on the importance of school facilities and solutions to the cost problem, come to the Annual Meeting of the Maryland Education Coalition. Thursday, Oct 22, 7:00 pm, Maryland PTA, 5 Central Ave., Glen Burnie 21061. Hear State Treasurer Kopp along with national and local experts. Hear principals, teachers, students, and parent tell stories about excellent and horrible schools. See more photos.

@Interesting Observations-you have no idea how staff is shut up!!!!

@Charlie Cooper-Is this a state-wide meeting or a county meeting?

Wise: What do you mean? Your comment doesn't make sense - Do you mean that I don't know what it is like to staff a school and that I should shut up? Or do you mean that I have no idea how to shut up a staff? Or are you just ranting?

I will ignore your insult.Was it really necessary?

I was referring to the fact that BCPS staff is stongly encouraged to keep their mouths shut about issues that the powers to be would not want the public to know about. I have been in the system a long time and have seen this over and over. What is said officially,on paper, in policy,etc is often very different than what really happens. I was referring to your comment about when it became acceptable for staff to accept the building conditions.

Have a nice day.

@IO- Is it necessary to insult before you ask a question? I mean that BCPS staff is shut up, strongly encouraged to not tell the public about things the powers to be do not want anyone to know. This could be information about the physical plant or about actual instruction and assessment. See the Baltimore Sun today for an article about what happened to a teacher who spoke up about testing irregularities. Just one small example!

Wise Educator do you have some prior beef with IO? I'm completely lost why you found his comments to be insulting.

Are students willing to take on their peers and hold them responsible for caring for the buildings if/when things, even small things are fixed?

After reading the post on bullying and hearing how kids are being assaulted over their weight, sexual orientation, and the color shoelaces they're wearing, I think it's asking a bit much to expect students to "take on their peers and hold them responsible" for building maintenance. Maybe adults and people in positions of authority should be the ones to hold the miscreants accountable. If I were a student, I would just be thanking my lucky stars each day I was able to return home from school in one piece.

Corey, I consider someone asking me if I am ranting when I state an opinion and ask for information about a meeting to be insulting.

IO-you ask,When did the parents and kids decide that they were going to accept what had been offered - broken windows, heat and cooling systems that didn't work, bathrooms that didn't have door, heck, door knobs that weren't there.
That is simple, they decided to accept these standards for their children when they did not bring the issue up at back to school night (if they even went), to a School Improvement Team(SIT)meeting, being there to organize a PTA or any type of Parent Involvement organization at their childs school. Until the mentality of I got mine you got yours to get (no matter how), and questions concerning doubling and tripling schools from k-8 and some k-12 the buildings will continue to look the way they do.
Now I have visited some schools in South Baltimore and you would think you were in a county school. The children as well as the staff respect each other, parent involvement is high, pta's thrive, the buildings look like they are new.
The look of the schools can in some cases be an example of who really cares.

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