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November 05, 2007

Last week's question: Should Washington County build a new high school on the east side of Hagerstown for $60 million or look into other alternatives, such as the reuse of existing buildings?

· Existing buildings? What existing buildings in the East end.

· No. As I mentioned on this forum last week, it isn't the cost of the new building that concerns me. Rather, it is the fact that the establishment of a new school will require additional administrators, custodians, librarians, etc.

Washington County has numerous existing high schools with a student population in the smallest category (1A) established by the state. We would be better served by expanding/replacing the existing smaller high school buildings with larger facilities rather than expanding the bureaucracy by building an "eastern" high school.

· Also, the idea of reusing an existing building for a high school is a non-starter. If a new high school is to be constructed, I expect it to be designed with current environmental, safety, security, and technology needs in mind.

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The cost to retrofit an existing building (if one exists) would be prohibitive. One need look no further than the old Sears store at Long Meadow for an example of a building that isn't suitable for reuse because of the economics of renovation.

· You are kidding, aren't you? Washington County Public Schools settle for an existing building when the Board of Education gets fully funded by the county commissioners?

The only real question is: How much do they want to spend and isn't the sky the limit? Then the BOE will give 99-year leases on older, unused school properties such as Rohrersville and Downsville. I have given this matter careful consideration for many years and I have come to the conclusion that the BOE is worse than useless. The BOE is not accountable for anything - ever. What a job, just show up once in a while and try to look interested - don't forget to cash your paychecks.

· Honestly, the BOE needs to take care of its current buildings. Our students deserve better than trailers for classrooms, no libraries, no lunchrooms, no proper environmental controls and they deserve adequate space! Get the current schools up to snuff before starting a whole new mess!

· With this construction, Washington County debt will continue to increase. As the economy continues to turn down with crisis in the housing market, auto sales, price of oil increasing and other household budget items creating serious concerns, adding a high school at this time without considering alternatives seems like a road toward misery ... now is the time for "thinkers" to step forward to minimize the costs of this plan...

· The school system needs to present its case for such a high school. The land slated for use for this school is off of Mount Aetna Road and this is where the school should be built, if necessary. I would first like to see the numbers for the school year ending in June 2007, for where we are this month and where we project we will be by the end of school in June 2008.

Also, we need to know where we are in the rest of the county. How are we going to redistrict for this school - straight line or political whim? I think all need to know is that redistricting is realigning the children, not redistricting the schools. There's only one school district - and there's no difference between them!

· School officials and our elected representatives need to quantify where the capacity issues exist or will exist in the near future.

From there they should establish a plan to build expansions to the existing high schools where needed. This would be much more cost-effective than building a new school that would require significant overhead expenses in terms of administrative and support staff.

It would also eliminate the need for the entire redistricting of the county that would be required with a new high school.




This week's question: Last week, in regard to a recent incident in which a 5-year-old was let off a school bus two miles from home, the Washington County school system said it could not release "specific information" about its review of what happened because it's a personnel matter. Does that satisfy you?

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