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New high school planned in Washington Co.

October 22, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County Public Schools officials are planning to build the largest high school in the county.

They say it could hold up to 1,600 students - 264 more than North Hagerstown High School's capacity.

Before building can begin, Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael said the school system and county must work together to find a site. During a meeting last week, Michael told County Commissioners that an area east of Hagerstown would be ideal.

Funding for an East City High School is included in the school system's list of capital requests to the state for fiscal year 2009. Facilities Planner Robert Spong said the school system has asked the state for planning money for the new high school, but a site is necessary before approval can be given.

Michael said that if the county was committed to a large housing development in an area, that could drive the need for a new high school.

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"It's a balancing act," he said. "Where is the next greatest need?"

Michael said 45 to 60 acres would be needed for the new high school.

"We would recommend building the largest high school in the county," he said.

He said the school could open with capacity for 1,200, but could be expanded to allow for 1,600 students to attend.

"I think the holdup right now is the lack of a site," Michael said. "That's something we need to do, start moving on a site."

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the site proposed to County Commissioners, east of Hagerstown and west of Interstate 70 and Md. 66, was "ideal." It would allow students to be moved from South Hagerstown, Smithsburg and Boonsboro high schools, she said.

Board members discussed the possibility of a developer offering them land to build a new school.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said there could be some unforeseen costs in accepting land, only because it is free. Water and sewer expenses and necessary roadwork should be factored in, he said.

"I think the worst thing we can do is decide on a site simply because someone offers it for free," he said. "(We should) look at the most cost-effective, efficient location over the long term."

Michael said that it would take four years to open the school from the time a site is found.

"We're reaching the point where we've had the slowdown in the (housing) market, but it's going to turn around at some point," he said. "Then we're going to be at a crisis situation with some of our schools."

South Hagerstown High will be the first to experience the pains of that growth, he said.

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