Good evening Members of the Board of Education,
My name is Samuel Hahn and I am the Executive Director of Oakland Mills United.
The Oakland Mills cluster consists of both the oldest schools in the Howard County Public School System and on your list for deferred maintenance. It is shocking and shameful that this school system has allowed for the Oakland Mills cluster schools to remain in the state they are today.
Currently, five of the Oakland Mills cluster schools are on your list for deferred maintenance: Cradlerock and Jeffers Hill Elementary, Lake Elkhorn and Oakland Mills Middle, and Oakland Mills High School. These five schools are 28.5% of the entire HCPSS deferred maintenance budget at $230 million out of $804 million.
It is imperative that the Board of Education keep Oakland Mills Middle on the Capital Improvement Plan and commit to completing the highly needed and crucial renovation and not skimp over Oakland Mills Middle as you have done in years past. These systematic renovations are crucial to providing a safe and conducive learning environment for students along with providing a safe working environment for the staff.
It is outrageous and ridiculous that Oakland Mills High School is not on your Capital Improvement Plan or your long-range master plan. Currently, Oakland Mills High School has $111 million in deferred maintenance, the highest in the school system. There are problems now that are creating a disturbing learning environment. For example, there is $38 million in deferred maintenance for a “major HVAC renovation”. This school system has acknowledged the problems this caused when your own report determined that “…the system is old, obsolete and continues to be problematic we are unable to provide a conducive- learning environment to both the students and staff.” This is just one of a long list of systematic problems that the Oakland Mills High School building faces and yet there is no urgency from the Board of Education to address this issue.
To put this into perspective, the base cost of constructing High School 13 is $108 million. According to this comparison, it is cheaper to knock down Oakland Mills High School and rebuild it because of the systematic problems and neglections this school has faced due to years of deferred maintenance. Why did this school system let this happen? It is appalling to see that the Long Range Capital Improvement Plan considers funding the construction of a HS 14 instead of funding systematic renovations needed at Oakland Mills High School. Why is this the case?
Why are newer schools receiving building renovations and additions while the county’s oldest schools continue to be neglected and are degrading despite pleas from school staff, students, parents, community members, and even alumni.
I urge this Board to keep Oakland Mills Middle School on the Capital Improvement Plan and to fully commit to funding the renovations when the time comes, instead of continuing to defer critical and long needed maintenance to this building. I hope that you will also add Lake Elkhorn Middle and Jeffers Hill and Cradlerock Elementary to the Capital Improvement Plan and provide the needed renovations and HVAC replacements. Most importantly, I call on you to act on the systematic degradation of Oakland Mills High School and add it to the Capital Improvement Plan.
I hope that you will remember and act on the issues impacting the Oakland Mills cluster schools and treat Oakland Mills schools equitably.
Executive Director, Oakland Mills United