School board OKs facilities plan

June 16, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Board of Education approved a plan Tuesday to open eight new schools over the next decade and modernize another seven.

Those plans are included in the educational facilities master plan, which will now go to state officials for consideration.

The school board approved the document 4-1, with board member Donna Brightman opposed. Board members Paul W. Bailey and William H. Staley were absent.

Before accepting the plan, some board members lobbed what board Vice President Ruth Anne Callaham described as "potshots" at staff members who drafted the plan.

Brightman said she called the Maryland Department of Planning and learned that the state favors small, community schools -- a stark contrast to the 650-student elementary schools on the drawing board in Washington County.


However, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she does not believe that is accurate.

"The state can't really afford to be building neighborhood schools," she said.

Board President Wayne D. Ridenour agreed, and said larger schools often have additional educational programs that are not affordable in smaller schools.

Brightman said she also was concerned that the plan references redistricting changes that are being considered by a committee, but have not been approved by the school board.

Robert Spong, facilities planning manager for Washington County Public Schools, said that in a second draft of the plan, he was "very sensitive" to Brightman's concerns on redistricting language.

Brightman also said the state official with whom she spoke disputed claims by school system officials that the master plan is a flexible document that can change from year to year.

"It's a planning document. It's a guide. I disagree," said Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael. "I don't know who you spoke with at the state."

In a phone interview after the meeting, Brightman said she would not reveal with whom she spoke.

Board member W. Edward Forrest described the master plan as a "moving, living target" and said that if the document was set in stone, a new Bester Elementary already would be completed and Conococheague Elementary would be closed.

"It's a snapshot in time," Forrest said. "It's what's most likely to happen ... not definite ... but the best we can project."

WCPS Master Plan Projects

These projects are included in the Washington County Public Schools Educational Facilities Master Plan:

o New Barbara Ingram School for the Arts -- August

o New Antietam Academy -- December 2010

o New Eastern Primary School -- August 2011

o Replacement of Bester Elementary School --August 2014

o Replacement of Conococheague and Winter Street elementaries (West City Elementary) -- August 2015

o Modernization of Fountaindale Elementary -- August 2016

o New East City High -- August 2017

o Addition to E. Russell Hicks Middle School and limited renovation -- 2017

o New South County Elementary -- August 2018

o New North County Elementary -- August 2019

o Modernization of Sharpsburg Elementary -- August 2019

o Modernization of Emma K. Doub Elementary -- August 2021

o Modernization of Cascade Elementary -- August 2022

o Modernization of Hancock Middle-Senior High -- August 2022

o Modernization of Boonsboro High -- August 2022

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