Safety, security, infrastructure, educational programming, equity and fairness.
They were all issues Havre de Grace residents outlined Monday night in their ongoing push to be granted funding for a new high school in the city.
In the last Harford County Board of Education meeting before the Sept. 24 vote on the Capital Improvement plan, Havre de Grace community leaders stated why a new Havre de Grace High School should be considered for county and state funding.
“I ask that you move Havre de Grace High School from priority No. 4 to priority No. 1,” Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty said at Monday’s meeting.
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Havre de Grace chief of police Teresa Walter and National Honor Society President Nina Cogan both touched on similar thoughts concerning the numerous safety and security issues that they say plague the high school.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, we want to ensure that every student from Harford County, no matter what school they attend, have a safe place to go. It’s absolutely imperative,” Walter said.
Walter explained that Havre de Grace is the only school to have a city road and public sidewalks run through the center of campus.
“From a safety aspect and a tactical aspect as a former S.W.A.T. member that is very, very difficult to ensure children’s safety,” Walter said.
Cogan made reference to the recent shooting at Perry Hall High School.
“It wasn’t Columbine but it was really close to home. With few security cameras, back entrances unmanned, tight stairways feeding into claustrophobic hallways, and a campus spread across the street where traffic is designated to run through on weekends, Havre de Grace High School is hardly one considered to be tight on security,” Cogan said.
Cogan said anyone can enter the school and the music building's doors are unlocked during the school day.
“I’m not complaining over the inconvenience. I’m sharing with you the level of stress and anxiety that these conditions create all in a typical date,” Cogan said.
Farhan Bachu, senior and Vice President of Student Government Association, took an educational approach to why Havre de Grace needs a new high school.
“Some small changes in the form of more class offerings, accessibility and technology, and everyday classroom conditions, will benefit our present and our future generation by increasing opportunities,” Bachu said.
Many feel that future generations may not even consider Havre de Grace, and the current building's appearance alone is the reason why.
Neal Mills, a 1967 Havre de Grace High School graduate and the city's director of rlanning, said the school prepared him for his future which included 30 years in the United States Airforce.
During those 30 years, Mills explained that he moved 22 times. Looking for a new school was the first thing Mills and his family would do.
"I wouldn't go past the door because I didn't see the dedication and investment from the community in that physical plant. Realtors call it curb side appeal, but you've gotta get them through the door. They need the facilities and that is where they are limited," Mills said. "I understand it takes eight to ten years from scratch to completion to build a new school. The time to plan is now."
Newly appointed Board member Thomas Fitzpatrick brought up the lack of support that he feels schools located on the east side of Rt. 40 receive.
“We need to avoid the future of making these things a purely political decision but having said that, the folks at Youth’s Benefit have every right to complain because they have been on the list, off the list, on top of the list; but quite frankly my folks in Havre de Grace have an even bigger case for complaint because they weren’t on the list at all. Ever,” Fitzpatrick said.
“There’s a perception for many people that live east of Rt. 40 and a lot of these decisions, not necessarily made by our school boards, but by our county government in general, is that the resources have always gone to the west side of the county, to the other side of I-95, and that the communities on the east side of Rt. 40 have been neglected."
The community leaders behind the "It's Our Turn" initiative are planning a large turnout for the Sept. 24 meeting—when the Board of Education will determine if a new school will be added to the budget.