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Chamber gives $25,000 to planned arts school

January 17, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Foundation donated $25,000 toward the planned arts school downtown thanks to proceeds from the sale of the Chamber's headquarters last year, the organization's president said Friday.

Chamber officials have been active in developing downtown revitalization plans, which include the school for the arts, said Timothy G. Henry, chairman of the Chamber and the Chamber's foundation.

"It's with great pleasure that we're now able to bring some money to that project," Henry said.

The Chamber foundation sold the 111 W. Washington St. building three months ago for $216,000 and had $153,641 in proceeds after paying taxes and retiring the mortgage, Chamber President Fred K. Teeter Jr. said.

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The nonprofit foundation's trustees could decide to make another donation to the school or other projects, he said.

The $25,000 donation gives the Washington County Board of Education $50,000 toward the approximately $100,000 cost of a feasibility study for the arts school, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

Besides the Chamber foundation's donation, the School Board has a $20,000 state grant and a $5,000 donation from an anonymous donor, Morgan said.

The feasibility study would review what needs to be done to renovate the building into a school and how much that will cost, Morgan said. The cost estimate is about $4 million.

Morgan said she hopes the school will open in fall 2006. Students would audition or submit portfolios to apply to the school, which would be the county's first charter school, Morgan said.

The school could have 200 students, but it might have more if some students attend for only half a day, Morgan said.

The arts school would be the main campus for the students, but there are several other sites where they could take academic and art classes, Morgan said. Those sites include South Hagerstown High School, the Technical High School, Hagerstown Community College and possibly the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

Hagerstown property owner Vincent Groh announced last winter he was donating the former Henry's Theater building at 9-11 S. Potomac St. to Hagerstown so it could become the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. The school is named for Groh's late wife.

Teeter said Chamber officials have narrowed their search for a new building to lease to four finalists. They are the former Tri-State Electric building, the former Cannon Shoe Factory, the Clock Tower building and the Hays Building, all downtown.

The lease at the current site expires April 30, Teeter said. While the lease could be extended in 60-day increments, the Chamber is aiming to have a new home by the end of the current lease, he said.

That makes the Hays Building on West Washington Street the most likely new home for the business organization because the other buildings require renovations to be completed, Teeter said.

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