The leaders of a movement to get a new building for Towson High School laid out their plans tonight at a community meeting aimed at organizing support for the project.
The goal of the group, called New in ’22, is to get on Baltimore County’s FY19 capital budget so that a new school can be built and open to students by the fall of 2022.
Zach Caplan, a senior at Towson High and president of the student body, was one of about 30 parents and community leaders who attended the meeting at the Towson public library. He said in an interview that the school has excellent teachers but that the building itself is deteriorating quickly.
“It’s imperative that students have the resources needed to have the learning experience they deserve,” he said. “The administration and janitorial staff work very hard to make the school presentable. However, it’s deteriorating quickly and as more students arrive, that’s not going to be possible.”
Jennifer Bolster, a Towson resident who is leading the steering committee for a new building, told the crowd about mold in the school, a wall that had caved in and subsequently filled the room with dirt, and electrical panels that routinely get flooded when there is heavy rainfall.
She said in 2014 it was estimated that it would cost $32 million just to bring the school up to “average” in terms of mechanical and engineering.
“And that doesn’t even include the 300-student addition they’d have to add. It really makes more sense to start anew. The cost per square foot just doesn’t make sense,” Bolster said.
“We are not trying to get ahead of any of the schools that are scheduled for renovation or building,” she added. “We’re just saying that Towson is next. Now is the time to start planning.”
Along with parents, several local politicians were at the meeting.
Councilman David Marks, who represents the Fifth District, said he supports the plan, but noted that in his conversations with Dr. Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent, Dance has noted that constructing a new building would be a huge logistical challenge. One idea floated, Marks said, was to have half the students attend class at one location and half at another, although that is not a formal plan. The locations would not be existing high schools, but rather available space in other nearby buildings.
“It’s on his radar, and he has not made commitments,” Marks told the audience. “But I think he knows something has to be done.”
Del. Steve Lafferty said he also supports a new building for Towson High. After the meeting, he said that while he supports it, he wants to make sure that other areas in the county also get the renovations and buildings that they need.
“We don’t want to shortchange other schools,” Lafferty said.
Towson High was built in 1949, an addition was put on in 1965, and it was partially renovated in 1996 — although many say the renovation did not accomplish much. The high school is also becoming more crowded each year, and is expected to be at 137 percent capacity in five years.
A 2014 BCPS facilities assessment gave Towson the third-worst building score out of the county’s 23 high schools.
Amy Black, the parent of a sixth grader and an eighth grader at Dumbarton Middle School, said she was concerned about all the construction that kids would have to deal with. Dumbarton is in the midst of a major renovation, which has caused some classes to be held in trailers.
“It’s a lot to ask for the same group of students to bear the burden of all this,” she said.
“I’m not opposed to a new high school at all,” she said after the meeting. “I’m just concerned about how it will happen. It’s the logistics of it all.”
Marks noted after the meeting that if the old Carver High School had not been demolished, it would have provided a place for Towson High students to go during the construction of a new high school.
“If Carver High School had remained standing, it might have helped with the logistics of building a new Towson High,” he said.
Bolster urged parents to attend BCPS Board of Education meetings and raise the issue of a new building at every meeting. She also urged people to attend various public-input meetings as the county and school system prepare their budgets.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who represents the Second District, said she came to the meeting to listen and learn what she can do to help.
“People really do have power,” she told the crowd. “It’s a matter of pulling together for the same objective.”