Good evening Chair Wu, Superintendent Martirano, and members of the Board of Education,
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you tonight regarding the Capital Budget for the Howard County Public School System. My name is Samuel Hahn and I am the Executive Director of Oakland Mills United and speaking on behalf of this organization. The Howard County Public School System has time and time again continued to defer building maintenance for the schools in the Oakland Mills cluster. Out of the school system’s $804 million in deferred capital maintenance and renovations, there is $230 million, 28.5% of all deferred maintenance, impacting the students and staff of Oakland Mills cluster schools.
Why is 28.5% of all HCPSS deferred maintenance in five Oakland Mills Cluster schools? The Oakland Mills Cluster has been deferred year after year and also consists of some of the oldest schools both in this school system and on the list for deferred maintenance. Why is 20% of the entire HCPSS deferred maintenance in just two of these OM cluster schools? Oakland Mills Middle has about $51 million in deferred maintenance, and Oakland Mills High School has over $110 million in deferred maintenance. Why do 3% of HCPSS students carry 20% of HCPSS maintenance burden? Please explain how and why this county has allowed this to happen.
Some hope shines through as OMMS is on the long range master plan, but this school system and board of education must commit to and ensure that this time, OMMS will be fully funded for renovation without any further delay or deferral.
However, Oakland Mills High School is not even mentioned in the proposed plans. Oakland Mills High School is in desperate need of a systematic renovation to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for all students AND staff members. HVAC is one example.
Your own assessment, now several years old, stated that “When originally deferred, this was a major HVAC renovation project; however, it has been nine years since the project was deferred. Current conditions at the school now require a full renovation. It’s not practical and cost effective to maintain the system any longer. Due to the fact 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.” (Full report is attached below).
More recently parents received an email communication explaining that an IEQ inspection showed that your prior assessment remains true. Not only does the HVAC system continue to be problematic, it has caused mold to form in the classrooms.
“The cause of the mold growth is related to the HVAC system’s design, coupled with the current weather conditions, as well as additional run-times of the system (a COVID-19 response). Mold growth was identified in this space during the Summer and was cleaned with a board-approved restoration contractor. Building Maintenance (HVAC) adjusted the fans operation speed to mitigate future impact, however it does not appear this was successful. As other HVAC zones in the space have a similar construction, they will also be surveyed for mold growth as a precaution.” (See email attachment)
This is an outrage and immediate action must be taken. Does HCPSS remember the last time it failed to provide a safe learning environment because of mold?
What is even more outrageous is that this school system continues to neglect and disregard the crucially needed funding to OMHS. Not only has HCPSS funded NEW High School 13, but also plans to fund construction of Elementary Schools 43 and 44 and even a High School 14, stating this construction is a priority for the school system, rather than funding OMHS, a school that is over 48 years old. Please explain why this is the case? Why is HCPSS funding future projects for new school construction when your existing schools are left neglected for years?
This is shocking and disgraceful. Students, staff members, parents, and community members have constantly voiced their concerns and pleaded for our schools to be on the Capital Improvement Plan and have been disregarded. Why is this the case and why is this the trend for Oakland Mills cluster schools? Why are newer schools receiving building renovations and additions while these older schools with more maintenance needs continue to be neglected. Why does HCPSS commit to funding construction to build new school buildings when its current buildings remain neglected?
Oakland Mills students, parents, community members, school staff, and even alumni have voiced our concerns for years for OMMS and OMHS to be put on the CIP and funded. It is time that this board finally listens to these voices, voices have been neglected for years. I hope that you will remember and act on the issues impacting the Oakland Mills cluster schools.
Executive Director, Oakland Mills United