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Antietam Academy could be built

October 16, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN ? Plans to build a new Antietam Academy appeared stalled last month, but they were revived Tuesday when the Washington County Commissioners showed some interest in the project.

Washington County Public Schools officials said they did not want to put any more time or effort into planning for the school if there was no commitment from the county. Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael has said that the school could be built on land behind E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

Antietam Academy is an alternative program for middle and high school students who have not been successful in their regular school setting.

The Board of Education has asked the commissioners to place more than $400,000 in the fiscal year 2009 budget for planning for a new Antietam Academy. Board members also have asked for a long-term commitment to build the new school, which is expected to cost about $11 million.

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Money for the school had been included in the county's budget but was removed. The board has made frequent requests that the money be reinstated.

Michael said Tuesday that officials could move forward with a $15,000 land study if commissioners were in favor of supporting the planned building. Money for a more than $400,000 architectural study could be taken from reserve funds.

Commissioners President John F. Barr said he was in favor of building a new Antietam Academy that would be separate from existing schools.

Antietam Academy is split between Western Heights Middle and South Hagerstown High schools. A new school would house more students and be used for Evening High School, which is now at Washington County Technical High School.

"I think the board is really interested in advocating for these kids," Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner said.

Michael said that moving Antietam Academy students from Western Heights and South Hagerstown will free up classroom space at those schools, which are overcrowded.

"We could use the other building there in lieu of portables," he said. "I hate to see us continue to invest in portables, and I think that's the direction we're heading."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he supports building a new Antietam Academy, but he said that in the future the county will not have the money for all needed capital projects and will have to find a way to do less.

"It's obviously a recognized need within the system," Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said.

Commissioners Vice President Terry Baker said he was not ready to commit to building a new Antietam Academy. He requested additional data on where Antietam Academy students go and what they do when they leave the school.

Wagner said that Antietam Academy students and students and teachers at other schools will benefit from a new building for those students. A new Antietam Academy building would be able to house more students than the current buildings on two campuses.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said there are students in some regular classrooms that should be at Antietam Academy, but there isn't room. Their presence takes its toll on the class through distractions and other problems, she said.

"It's an indirect cost that you can't measure," Michael said.




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The issue: Washington County Public Schools has requested that funding for a new Antietam Academy be added to the county's budget. Planning money had been included but was removed.

What's new: The Board of Education said it might consider taking money from reserve funds to pay for a study of the possible site behind E. Russell Hicks Middle School. Officials said they wanted to make sure the County Commissioners supported the project before continuing to spend money and time on the new Antietam Academy building. The commissioners said Tuesday they support the project, but they did not commit any money to it.

What's next: School officials said they will move forward with a land study and look into paying for an architectural study.

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