City Schools to receive funding for new buildings and renovations

Patterson students participate in a rally for school funding in Annapolis (Photo: Corey Grisson, Jr., Patterson Press)

By Corey Grisson Jr.

Patterson High School and several other schools throughout Baltimore City are likely to receive major renovations or even brand new buildings within the next few years, thanks to a loan approved by the Maryland General Assembly in response to pressure from students, teachers, parents, administrators and other supporters.

In February 2013, Patterson High School was part of something wonderful, right along with every Baltimore City school. About 3,000 students, staff, and parents showed up, including a bus-load from Patterson. We went to Annapolis to fight to get a bill passed so City Schools could rebuild and replace our old schools with new, better buildings.

Students spoke out and told us how their schools looked and how they feel too hot sometimes and too cold at other times inside.  Students from all grade levels from Kindergarten to 12th grade were there. One 4th grade girl talked about bugs being in her school and we all know that is true. Older alumni, who know what our schools look like because they graduated 30 years ago or more, also spoke. Teachers talked about our school conditions and said some windows were broken and some walls had holes in them. Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke out in favor of passing the bill. Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, talked about the fact that he has gone to Annapolis for the past two years and that both times a bill did not get passed. He said he thought this bill would pass this year.

This year, lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly passed 766 bills, many of which have already been signed by our Governor, Martin O’Malley. And YES, our bill passed and has been signed! So the General Assembly has agreed on a financing plan to allow Baltimore to spend $1 billion dollars on school construction to repair or replace dilapidated buildings over the next seven years.  Patterson High School is among the schools slated to benefit from this money. The plan would require Baltimore, the city school system, and the state to put up $20 million a year each to help pay back $1 billion in bonds over the next 30 years. The Stadium Authority will sell the bonds and oversee the construction program. With its current building in continous use since 1960, the School District had already recommended Patterson High School for renovation or replacement before the state bill was approved. Now that the money is available, we should see improvements and possibly a brand new building within the next few years.

All of the students, parents, and teachers who went to Annapolis to support the bill made a difference. Supporters said that investing in Baltimore’s children would benefit the whole state. That day was one of the greatest days of my life. I have never before been somewhere where everybody around me wanted the same thing.  It feels good to be part of history.

(Photos: Corey Grisson Jr., Patterson Press)

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