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School renovations decided on a scientific basis

July 13, 2009

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Although a Washington County Public Schools planning document lists only six major school renovations through 2022, schools countywide benefit from minor improvements throughout the year.

Some of those projects, including infrastructure improvements and equipment replacement, occur during the summer months to limit disruptions to students.

This summer, about $10.2 million will be spent on projects at 39 school sites and two administrative buildings.

Public schools in Washington County have a maintenance backlog totaling about $40 million, said Rob Rollins, executive director for operations. He said he expects that amount will be reduced by about $7.5 million after the completion of this summer's project list.

School maintenance projects are completed according to a numerical system that ranks school facilities and equipment on a scale of one to five, with one being the worst.

Facilities are ranked base on their physical qualities, like exterior conditions, roof conditions, flooring and heating, and also based on functional features, like classrooms, instructional rooms, food service areas and media centers.

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Based on the facilities master plan adopted this year, the best school based on the ranking system is Maugansville Elementary School, which opened in 2008 and has a total of 154 points. The second-highest-ranking school is Rockland Woods Elementary, which opened that same year and has 147 points.

According to the 2009 document, the facility with the lowest point total is Winter Street Elementary, which has 70 points. The second-worst facility, according to the numerical ranking system, is Conococheague Elementary, which has 78 points.

Washington County Board of Education President Wayne D. Ridenour said the numerical totals for each school help officials determine "where we need to invest at a certain time."

However, other projects could take priority, he said, if a faulty boiler or other needs threaten to close a school or affect school operations in some way.

"I want everybody to be fixed up," Ridenour said. "But we have to do it as scientifically as we possibly can."

Boonsboro's Town Council criticized the school board last week for scheduling a major modernization of Boonsboro High School for 2022. The last major renovation took place in 1975, and the school was built in 1958.

Town officials voted last week to send a letter to the school board saying the 2022 modernization of the school would not come soon enough. On Monday, Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr. said the letter would be sent soon.

Ridenour described the school's 2022 modernization as a "total renovation" similar to the ones those with older homes undertake to "take an old house and start over with it ... to bring down the effective age."

However, he said the school has benefited from more than $2 million in smaller projects since 2000, and is slated for about $1.36 million in improvements this summer. Previous projects include the replacement of ceiling tiles, lighting and classroom partitions in 2006.

"As someone who taught there, I know how important that was to teachers to have those partitions," Ridenour said Monday. "For the longest time ... they had partitions, but it was paper for intents and purposes."

This summer the school is scheduled for an $850,400 cooling system replacement, a replacement of all lockers ($176,000), the replacement of an underground oil tank ($141,000) and other projects, according to a draft document.

Kauffman would not comment further on statements made by town officials last week, but said he appreciated the school system's efforts in improving the high school.

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