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Barr Construction Institute builds on educational history

Former Hagerstown elementary school transformed into trade education center

Former Hagerstown elementary school transformed into trade education center

February 26, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - If the blackboards at the Barr Construction Institute seem a little low for a class of carpentry students, think of it as a tribute to adaptive reuse of space.

Before the institute bought the 530 N. Locust St. building in 2005, it served as a day-care center, a private Christian academy and an elementary school, speakers said Monday at an open house for the renovated building.

Several years and more than $2 million later, the building is home to the institute's eight construction trade education programs, as well as the offices of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, which runs the institute, said Joan Warner, ABC chapter president.

Public officials, including Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, applauded the renovation Monday.

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"This is a fantastic reuse of this building," said Bruchey, who said he attended elementary school within those same walls.

Bruchey said he was scheduled to meet with other officials today to seek ways to make it more affordable to renovate the city's old buildings.

"We don't want to grow out into our farmland anymore," he said. "We have to reuse what we have."

Morgan said she was excited to see "all the educational activity rekindled" in the building, particularly a program for county high school students the institute began in January.

There are 20 high school students enrolled in HVAC and plumbing programs, but Morgan said she hoped to increase that number in the future.

Morgan said she believes in John F. Kennedy's definition of success as having many options.

"I think our partnership with the Barr Institute represents providing that for our students - some additional options," she said.

Formerly, ABC's offices were in a smaller building on Howard Street and classes were held in a rented warehouse with insufficient heating, Washington County Board of Commissioners President John F. Barr said.

Barr's father, Jack E. Barr, was a founding member of the ABC chapter, and John Barr has been the institute's single-largest donor, chapter chairman M. James Rock said.

The institute was named after the Barr family, which was honored with a plaque Monday, Rock said.

Other speakers at Monday's open house included U.S. Rep. Bill Schuster, R-Pa., who spoke about the need for a steady flow of legal immigrants to fill construction jobs, and U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who spoke of the importance of energy-efficient building.

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