Ten Ways to Improve the Ten Year Plan

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1) Create a bigger purpose. The goal of the 10 year plan should not be to build and renovate school buildings. Our goal must be to educate and enable our students and our communities to build, enrich and empower each other. Our students and our communities need to be fully involved in the learning, decisions and building of these schools so these buildings become not BCPS schools, but their schools that they helped design, build and support.

2) Create great learning. Integrate the 10 year plan and the Jacobs report into STEM, environmental literacy and project based learning at our schools. By studying this intersection between learning, environment, architecture, design and economics we are creating rich and relevant learning for the students. Imagine the power and learning if we involving students, faculty and community members in visioning and design decisions for their schools. Can students find ways to orient or design the new additions to lower energy costs and improve their learning environment? Invite local architects and designers to be part of this learning process.

3) Build effective and efficient learning environments.
Studies show that good indoor air quality, proper lighting, acoustics and temperature help create effective learning environments for students. These factors should be the benchmarks for school design and operations contracts.

4) Build for the future.
Deciding that our schools will be built to last 150 years will create sustainable economic decisions that favor better technologies and materials that have slightly higher short term costs but far greater long term savings.

5) Train for the future.
Create after school and Saturday training programs to enable some high
school students to become certified to work on school construction projects after they graduate. Find ways to promote the training and hiring of local workers on construction crews.

6) Save for the future.
Many of our schools have potential energy saving renovation projects which are scheduled for renovations under the 10 year plan. The district should actively search out and undertake energy saving renovations that would create significant savings.

7) Create new funding streams.
If the district agrees to rebate 85% of energy savings back to schools which produce the savings through their own renovations or improved operations, some schools could self-finance these renovations outside of the CIP funding stream. The schools would be able to create these renovations before their scheduled renovations and the district would not have to dip into CIP funds to pay for them.

8) Create better schools now.
Many of the complaints about City Schools are about cleaning, health and operations issues which are relatively inexpensive to solve. Focusing attention on reducing asthma triggers, cleaning bathrooms and reducing harmful chemicals in the schools can create healthier and better environments for our children. These are issues that City Schools should tackle now.

9) Create cost savings with standardized and bulk purchasing of materials.

10) Create open and transparent decision making with professional oversight and collaboration.
Open all meetings to the public and post all contracts online for public viewing. Involve management from other districts and outside architecture and engineering firms in overseeing the 10 year plan.

Building Baltimore– One School at a Time

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As Baltimore City Schools embarks on their 21st Century Buildings Initiative to renovate and build new schools, it is important to envision what we want to create. The list of what we want to escape–schools without temperature control, broken and opaque windows, dirty bathrooms and undrinkable water cannot be enough as we create schools worthy of our children.

One easy decision is that our 21st Century buildings should be built well enough to last far into the 22nd century. This means that we will choose the best materials, designs, energy sources and technologies that will last and provide long term savings.
We must remember that our goal is not to create school buildings, but scholars and communities that are empowered, enlightened and enriched by our schools. We are building communities that will thrive and support their schools far into the future. Our schools and communities must learn to sustain each other with deep involvement and respect.

A project of this scope needs to capture the imagination and hearts of the students and the community. This needs to be their project, their schools, and as often as possible—their jobs. If we drop 2.4 billion dollars into Baltimore City without lifting thousands of people out of poverty, we will have failed the city and the schools. By connecting to after school and weekend training programs, students and their parents could become qualified and involved in some of the construction work on schools.

The 10 year plan provides a wonderful project for student learning that involves economics, mathematics, science, design and architecture. By involving students in the visioning of their building, they can begin to understand how a project can be created and to have a voice and a hand in this creation. This is real learning and empowerment.

If we are creating a city that brings back the full tapestry and talent of Baltimore to our public schools, this process should be open and welcoming to all. Architects, designers, educators and students should be collaborating on design prototypes and talking about how they can build or renovate these schools in new and wonderful ways. Planners and social workers should be talking about how to integrate health and social programs, education and the community into the school design. And students and parents should be imagining the type of schools and experiences they want at their schools.
It is time for Baltimore to become.

7 steps to healthy, high performing students (and schools)

Welcome To The Petri Dish

With over 80,000 commercial chemicals in our lives, we are stewing in our own experiment.

And the results are dramatic: lines on charts that climb like a mountain range into the future: breast cancers up, testicular cancers up, diabetes up, autism up, asthma up, ADHD up.


But not all the indicators are up.

Sperm counts are down dramatically


Many of these maladies are begun during early developmental stages where even low levels of chemical exposure can create changes that tick like time bombs into the future, presenting as cancers, diabetes, infertility, cardiovascular or Parkinson’s disease years later.

While Europe and Canada require chemicals to be proven safe before they are used commercially, here in the United States we stumble toward our own silent spring — waiting for chemicals to be proven unsafe by the trail of death, disease and loss that they leave behind them. The legacy of the this wait- and -weep gamble with lead, asbestos, PCB’s and mercury continues to haunt our health and economy decades after the harm was discovered.

If we are to protect our children, our schools must take seven steps to create healthy environments for students.

  1. Remove or remediate all known chemical and hazardous materials in schools.
    This seems obvious, but schools throughout the country fail to properly remediate lead paint, lead in water, asbestos (insulation around pipes, boilers) PCB’s (pre 1979 ballasts for florescent lighting) mercury (glass thermometers and science lab materials) and carbon monoxide (from mechanical systems and vehicle exhaust).
  2. Revise purchasing lists to allow only healthy cleaning, pest management and materials to be purchased by schools.
    Require construction and cleaning contractors to only purchase and use these approved products.
  3. Create small teams at schools to learn and carry out the Tools for Schools and/or Healthy Seat programs by the EPA.
    These teams inspect schools for moisture, pests, dust, mold, and poor ventilation and attempt to find solutions before they become health issues for students or expensive remediation issues for the district.
    You can learn more at : http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/
  4. Educate children and parents on creating healthy homes with information on how to reduce lead, chemical, mold and hazardous materials in the home.
    Children spend more time at home than at school; lowering their exposure at home is more important than lowering it at school.
  5. Bring back physical activity at schools.
    Creating a healthy mix of recess, physical education, dance and five minute movement breaks between classroom activities can help students focus better on their work, reduce discipline problems and lead to stronger, healthier kids.
  6. Track asthma absences.
    Schools do report asthma events that occur on campus, but often fail to track whether absences from school are due to asthma. This information could help schools understand the scope of the problem, provide a baseline to judge indoor air quality and education efforts and provide early indications of problems that should be addressed.
  7. Educate teachers on creating and maintaining a healthy classroom environment.
    Often teachers don’t understand how their actions can create health problems.
    Fumes from science, shop and art classes, mold from overwatered plants, stacks of papers that block ventilation, food that attracts pests can all create asthma triggers.
    Chemicals stored under sinks can present poisoning hazards.

These are simple, proven and cost effective means of protecting our children and improving their ability to learn and grow. Let’s start today.


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Burning Issues – Curtis Bay, Maryland

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Testimony on whether the Public Service Commission should allow the largest incinerator in the nation to be built at Curtis Bay, Maryland. The plans call for trucking in 4,000 tons of garbage a day to the plant which would be located within a mile of two schools.



Jacobs Report

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Baltimore City School officials and advocates speak and tour the Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore as the Jacobs Report (a school facilities report) was released to the public.
The report gave the district an overall rating of “very poor”.
Officials plan to use the report to help garner funding for a major construction and renovation of Baltimore City Schools.


  • Bishop Douglas Miles
  • Neil E. Duke Esquire, chairman, Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners
  • Baltimore City Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
  • Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools