Hagerstown school for performing arts taking shape

Renovations to downtown building under way; student outreach to begin in spring

Renovations to downtown building under way; student outreach to begin in spring

January 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

A new high school for the performing arts in downtown Hagerstown is expected to have a principal by July and be open for students in the fall of 2009.

Officials said Tuesday that renovations at the South Potomac Street building that will house the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts began more than two months ago.

Board Member William Staley said Tuesday that construction is on schedule and should be complete by January 2009.

He said crews have nearly completed removing asbestos from the building, but said some could still remain.

"Every time you rip something out, there's more asbestos," Staley said.

To ensure the school system is eligible for some historic tax credits, he said existing parts of the building are being salvaged.

"In order to get our tax credits, we have to save as much of the old building as we can," Staley said. "We're taking down the old woodwork there is in there."


Washington County Public Schools will borrow about $8.3 million to renovate the building for the new school. That is about $3 million less than originally was proposed to be spent.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said officials are planning to speak with parents and students about enrolling at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. That outreach is expected to begin in March or April, according to Dale Bannon, director of system development.

He said parents and students will hear about the audition and enrollment process, the curriculum and some logistical information.

While officials mentioned recruiting middle school students and generating information among them in the school, Brightman recommended including elementary students and their parents, as well.

Brightman said there was some concern that there could be a shift in funding from elementary art and music programs to the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

It is likely that the school would open in 2009 with primarily ninth- and 10th-grade students. Bannon said juniors and seniors likely would be phased in in the following years, but some might be able to attend in the first year.

The school is able to enroll about 300 students.

Bannon said the search for a principal for the school will be "broad" and could be nationwide.

An agreement with the University of Maryland at Hagerstown for the use of some classroom space for Barbara Ingram School for the Arts students is expected to be completed in mid-February, Bannon said. The school system is expected to pay about $5,000 in the first year to the university system to cover expenses like additional security and energy costs.

If the university begins to enroll more college students for day courses, Bannon said there is some concern that Washington County Public Schools would need to have an alternative plan to offer classroom space for Barbara Ingram students.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: A performing arts high school is being built in downtown Hagerstown. Officials have said that the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts will open in 2009.

What's new: Washington County Public Schools officials said Tuesday that construction at the South Potomac Street building being renovated for the school is on schedule. Asbestos removal is nearly complete and crews have been removing rubbish from the site.

What's next: Beginning in March or April, speakers will meet with parents and students at the middle school level to tell them about the new performing arts high school and how to participate. A full program for the school soon will be presented to the board's curriculum and instruction committee. Officials expect to hire a principal for the school by July.

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