City School Building Plan Gets the Green Light

Oct 16, 2013

Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School on Bridgeview Road is one of the first 15 schools that will be renovated or rebuilt from scratch.
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WYPR

The Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that paves the way for work to begin on Baltimore’s 10-year school building plan.

The approval allows the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $1.1 billion in bonds to pay for the renovation or construction of about 35 city schools in the first, six-year phase of the project. The plan’s total 10-year cost is $2.4 billion.

The memorandum approved today outlines the specific roles four public agencies will play in the project. Those agencies include the city government, school district, the Interagency Committee on School Construction and the Maryland Stadium Authority.

In a press release, the district’s interim superintendent Tisha Edwards described the collaboration of the agencies and the project itself as “hugely ambitious.” She added, “…but we know from our work so far that huge ambition yields huge results when you have the expertise and commitment of multiple parties coming together on behalf of kids.”

The memorandum was a condition of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year, which authorized the financing for the project. The city, state and school district will each kick in $20 million annually for the school upgrades. Those funds will be leveraged by the Stadium Authority to raise financing through bond sales.

“The bonds can be issued any time after (the MOU approval), but realistically will be issued closer to the start of construction,” Michael Frenz, the Authority’s executive director, said in an email message.

Actual construction and renovation of school buildings are set to start in late 2015. The Stadium Authority will oversee all new construction while school officials will manage school building renovations. City administrators will develop plans to include minority- and women-owned businesses and the hiring of local workers on the project.

Under the memorandum’s requirements, the four agencies must also form a collaborative group to serve as a base to inform students and residents about employment and other work-based opportunities.

All of the renovations and new construction for the project in this first phase is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017. Frenz predicted the project will be completed “…on time and on budget.”