City school system celebrates $1.1-billion in construction funding

Total is less than half of the estimated need

On the same day the head of the Baltimore City School System announced he would be retiring, the system is celebrating a massive infusion of money to repair crumbling schools.

City and school leaders gathered with students and parents for a celebration at Waverly Elementary School Monday night.

They say the $1.1-billion will be used to replace 15 schools and perform major renovations on more than 40 others.

"The rest of the state will stand in awe of the beautiful schools and the wonderful students of Baltimore City," said State Sen. Verna Jones (D-Baltimore City).

Zavior Barbor, a second-grader at Barclay Elementary school in East Baltimore, described what he sees at school just about every day.  "There's a lot of cockroaches and mice," he said.

Revenue from Baltimore City's beverage tax plus future revenue from the city's still un-built casino is where much of the city's share will come from.

"I want to thank you for not yielding to the pressure from the American Beverage Association and believing more in our children than we did in lobbyists," said Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Add that to more than $30-million a year guaranteed by state legislators, and there's enough so-called "skin in the game" to form a new lending authority.  The authority will will borrow the $1.1-billion, to be re-paid over the next 30 or so years.

But a comprehensive report on Baltimore City's schools found that it would take not much more nearly $2.5 billion to fix them all.

Schools CEO Andres Alonso – hours after announcing his retirement -- said he would be back to help the city get the rest.

"Of course five years from now when we have to go back to Annapolis to figure out the second phase, you can count me there," he said.

The head of the city's delegation in Annapolis is predicting a successful first phase will ease the way for the second.

"What we will have five years from now is a track record of new schools being built, of children going in to new schools and greater performance and production from our kids," said Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City).

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