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Cost for new magnet school estimated at $6.5 million

February 22, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, which will offer theater, music, dance and visual arts programs for 150 high school students, will cost about $6.5 million.

"It's a fantastic building, a great start, and we can only applaud turning this building over for such a great use as a school for the arts," George N. Holback said Tuesday night.

The Washington County Board of Education, which began looking at magnet school opportunities in 2001, voted Tuesday night to accept the feasibility study presented by Holback of Cho Benn Holback + Associates Inc. and to move forward with a $501,320 agreement with the Baltimore firm for design services.

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The design services bid is contingent on acceptance of a memorandum of understanding by the City of Hagerstown, according to a motion made by board member Bernadette M. Wagner. Developer Vincent Groh donated the Henry's Theatre Building to the city in 2003, according to background information provided in the feasibility study.

According to the study, 20 percent of the building's population will attend the school to pursue studies in theater, 20 percent to pursue dance and 20 percent to pursue the visual arts. Forty percent of students will study instrumental and choir music.

Departments largely will be divided by floor, Holback said. The theater program, complete with a black-box theater, a flexible teaching-theater design, will take up the first floor and basement levels, while the second floor will be devoted to choir, instrumental and practice rooms. A "critical room historically," the ceremonial room that once served the Elks Lodge would accommodate the dance program, Holback said.

"It will be a fantastic room for dance," Holback said.

The visual-arts program would be housed in a rooftop addition that would respect the historical value of the building, which is more than 100 years old, Holback said.

Board member Wayne D. Ridenour said he was concerned about trying to squeeze so much into a small space.

"I'm not saying it can't work, but it seems very small, in that respect," Ridenour said.

The estimated size of the completed school will be 26,725 square feet, according to the report.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the board must remember the building would serve an unconventional school use, and students will be able to use other sites throughout the downtown area, such as The Maryland Theatre.

"We're basically trying to pack a lot of program in this long, narrow site," Holback said.

By maintaining the building's historic character, Holback said the school system is eligible to seek state and, possibly, federal historic tax credits.

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