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Frederick firm to design South's renovations

June 17, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

A Frederick architectural firm has been hired by the Washington County Board of Education to help revamp the 40-year-old South Hagerstown High School building.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the school board approved hiring BMK Architects, the architectural/engineering firm that also oversaw total or partial renovations to Martinsburg, Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport high schools.

The school board expects BMK staff to recommend its changes for South High by the end of August, in time for the Maryland Department of Education's Sept. 1 deadline for plan approval.

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In about a year, the school board will then bid for a construction company to execute the mechanical and floor plans.

If the state authorizes plans and funding, the first phase of the $12.6 million addition and renovation project should begin during the summer of 1998 and last for two years, said Andrew McMahon, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

After a short respite, a two-year Phase II will be launched in the summer of 2002 to ultimately "take the school into the 21st century," McMahon said.

During the deliberation process, a six-member panel narrowed a list of nine architectural firms down to three, based on their geographical locations, experience with the school board, familiarity with school projects, design originality and ability to plan within a short time period.

The panel finally selected BMK Architects' $540,000 proposal to design South High's developments after hearing the finalists' presentations and total estimates, which ranged from $520,600 to $770,000.

When board members questioned using a higher priced company, Denny McGee, board director of facilities management and planning, said the firm's vast experience with school board endeavors makes it "money well spent."

BMK's $328,000 fee for Phase I, the lowest bid for that period, will come from the board's operating budget, McMahon said.

BMK Architects will base its initial designs on available state and county funds and 172 pages of specifications that a committee of parents, administrators and teachers had drafted and the school board had approved in mid-May, said Vice President Bob Asbury.

He said designs for Phase I, which will occur throughout the school year, will consist mainly of expanding the 153,826 square foot building by an estimated 10,394 square feet and upgrading about 53,118 square feet of the school's mechanical systems, like heating, air conditioning, ventilation, electrical wiring, handicapped facilities and computer networks.

"One of the challenges we will face is to complete this project without disrupting the educational program," said Asbury, who hopes to clear out construction areas, making early expansions and portable classrooms a must.

"Sure, there's going to be some dust, dirt and noise while the process is going on, but there's no sense in complaining about it," said South Hagerstown High School Principal Richard Martin. "We'll all work together to make sure that the parts of the building that will continue to be used will be safe for students and teachers."

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