Baltimore County Public Schools has hired a Hunt Valley-based engineering consultant to find solutions to overcrowding at Southeastern Baltimore County schools.
The $500,000 study on fixing overcrowding in the school system’s southeast area, which includes all of Dundalk and Sparrows Point, will look at options for the school system to address rising enrollment on the peninsula, where all three high schools are above their state-rated capacity and are expected to soar even further above it in coming years.
The new study is based on a consultant’s recommendation in BCPS’ Multi-Year Improvement Plan for All Schools, which suggested the school system start looking for land to build a new Sparrows Point Middle School, as the junior high shares a 65-year-old building with the high school.
The county government doled out $1 million in funding last year in the fiscal 2022 budget to start looking at options for the southeast area, as well as the northeast district, where a majority of elementary schools are over their state-rated capacity.
“We’ve started the [southeast] project in the past month or so,” Pete Dixit, the executive director of facilities management and strategic planning for BCPS, said during Tuesday evening’s Board of Education meeting, where board members reviewed a draft of the proposed fiscal 2023 capital budget for the school system.
Dixit said that the consulting firm Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson was hired to study options for the area, and they have done an “excellent” job working with the school system in the past.
Board member Kathleen Causey, who represents Council District 3, later asked Dixit how community members can tell which plans are in the works.
Dixit said while his office works with school administration to communicate how projects are going, they have been “careful of sharing any timeline” because global supply chain issues have thrown off construction estimates worldwide.
He said there will be two community engagement sessions booked soon to get public input from the area.
The draft capital budget proposal, which school board members will vote on at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25 after a public hearing next Tuesday, Jan. 18, requests another $5 million to get started on design improvements in the southeast, as well as another $5 million for the northeast project.
The southeast and northeast projects were also bumped up on the priority list, just below a request to build on a 600- to 650-seat addition to Dundalk High School, which finished its last cycle of renovations just eight years ago.
Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, school board members voted to approve a contract for a “restorative practices” professional development program aimed to teach discipline skills to school staff.
The board also had a conversation with stakeholder groups about the state of in-person learning amid constant COVID-19 outbreaks, where public schools officials said they were not aiming to back out of their plan to keep schools open.