NEWARK– While local officials will appeal to the Interagency Committee on School Construction next week, as of right now state funding for a new Buckingham Elementary School is deferred.
School system officials were advised Tuesday that Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) staff said Buckingham Elementary School was not eligible for funding. Nevertheless, Superintendent Lou Taylor and Sen. Mary Beth Carozza are expected to request an appeal of that determination at an IAC meeting next week.
“We are still very hopeful we’re moving down the right road but we can’t let off the accelerator on this,” Taylor said.
At the start of a public budget input meeting this week, Joe Price, the school system’s facilities planner, told the school board he’d gotten an update from IAC staff just hours earlier. He said IAC staff recommended preliminary funding approval for roof replacements at Snow Hill Middle School and Cedar Chapel Special School and design funding for a new roof at Pocomoke Elementary School.
“The staff provided a ‘C’ funding status for the Buckingham replacement school project,” Price said. “’C’ means deferred and not currently eligible for planning or funding approval pending IAC review or unresolved LEA issues. The IAC staff did not provide the Buckingham project a ‘D’ funding status. ‘D’ means denied and not eligible for planning or funding approval, so the window for Buckingham IAC approval remains open.”
He said the school system would submit a written appeal and that Taylor and Carozza would also appear before the IAC via Zoom on Dec. 14 to speak on the need for a new school. He said the next round of IAC recommendations would be issued in March.
“I want to make sure the board knows we received this today, Mr. Price was in my office at 3 o’clock,” Taylor said. “We just received this today. I wanted to keep you in the loop as I promised before and I also want to share with you that this information will go to the commissioners first thing tomorrow morning so I’m communicating with them as well.”
School board member Jon Andes, the county’s former superintendent, said this situation was déjà vu for him. He recalled many other years of going to the state and begging for money only to get 26% or 27% for these types of projects.
“It’s very frustrating for all of us,” he said. “I know Mr. Price and the entire team has worked very hard in trying to convince the staff of the IAC to provide the necessary funding that they should and ought to provide for the Buckingham Elementary School project,” he said. “It’s frustrating for me to once again have to go through this process, argue with the state and go back and forth. When I was superintendent of schools we did this five times for five major projects. It just seems to get old after awhile that we’re building a quality facility for our students in Worcester County and once again the state is not supporting us.”
He said he was hopeful that Taylor and other local representatives would make a good case for the state funding during the IAC meeting.
“It’s about time the state steps up and pays their fair share,” Andes said.
Taylor said any local residents interested in writing letters of support for the project could send those to Alex Donahue, executive director of the IAC.
Though planning for a new facility to replace the gaining Buckingham has been in the works for years, news that the state would not be providing funding for the project was shared this fall. State officials advised the school system that because there was space in schools considered adjacent, there was no need for a new facility.