Arnold Elementary School PTA president Kerry Petz has been fighting for a new Arnold Elementary School for years after reports of classroom flooding, bathrooms without doors and a myriad of other issues at the 49-year-old building on Church Road.
Construction of the new Arnold school is ongoing as part of the county’s six-year $764 million for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. About $431 million of funding is county money with the remainder state and federal grants and reimbursements. The money is being used to construct some new schools while modernizing others.
The new Arnold Elementary building will cost the county $41 million and is expected to open in 2019. It’s an 89,000-square-foot project that will serve more than 550 students. Students who would be going to Arnold Elementary school will have classes in dedicated space within Severn River Middle School.
The new building comes too late for Petz’s children to enjoy the new school, but it was worth the fight, Petz said.
Petz and the community had to convince the school board to approve a new elementary school rather than a revitalized property.
“Obviously it took a little longer than we thought,” Petz said. “But we made sure we got the school the community deserved.”
County and state officials gathered Tuesday to celebrate the county’s ongoing construction and design projects. County Executive Steve Schuh was joined by County Councilman Michael Peroutka, R-Millersville, and Del. Michael Malone, R-Crofton. The three men highlighted the various efforts it took to find and secure funding for the projects, which includes the new Crofton High School long requested by parents hoping to ease capacity issues at the county high school.
The influx of construction and design money was made possible through changes to the county bond lengths. Previously county bonds were limited to 20 years, but a change in 2015 allows the county to extend bonds out to 30 years. This means the county can take on larger debts but maintain similar payments on bigger projects.
As part of the change, bonds can only be used on projects that would last at least the length of the bond.
“It’s sort of like having a three-year car loan versus a five-year car loan,” Schuh said. “For the same monthly payment, you can have a much better car if you are on five-year terms than three-years terms.”
“But there is no free lunch. It means the bonds are outstanding longer and in the long run we will pay that extra interest. In this environment when interest rates are very low, it is certainly in the best interest in the students of Anne Arundel county to take advantage of the low costs of funds to get through this absolutely necessary construction.”
Schuh’s news conference Tuesday comes about a week before county students return to their schools.
“(This funding) has resulted in significantly enhanced educational environments for students in this county,” said Bob Mosier, spokesman for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
The 2017-2018 school year will have the largest number of students in Anne Arundel County public schools history as about 82,000 students are expected to begin classes. The county’s school start will be staggered, with students in first through fifth, sixth and ninth grades starting class on Tuesday. Remaining students will begin classes on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
The scope of the county’s school construction is also causing one-day start delays. Chesapeake High School; Severn River Middle School; Arnold, Brock Bridge, Manor View and Shady Side elementary schools will have staggered starts.
New schools or replacements
Arnold Elementary — $40.8 million
Jessup Elementary — $45.2 million
Crofton High School — $124.5 million
Modernization or revitalization
Manor View Elementary — $34.4 million
High Point Elementary — $40.5 million
George Cromwell Elementary — $32.7 million
Edgewater Elementary (design) — $40.2 million
Tyler Heights Elementary (design) — $38.1 million
Richard Henry Less (design) — $34.6 million
Source: Anne Arundel County