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Planners give conditional approval to new elementary site plan

October 05, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Planning Commission gave conditional approval Monday night to a site plan for the new Eastern Primary School after quizzing school system and planning staff about issues such as adequate parking, safe access for walkers and traffic patterns on Yale Drive.

The commission's unanimous approval was conditioned upon an adjustment to connect a sidewalk to the school entrance and upon the plan getting approvals from the county engineering department, Hagerstown Water and Sewer Department, and the Washington County Soil Conservation District.

The planned pre-K to second grade school will sit on about 52 acres at the intersection of Yale Drive and Mount Aetna Road, said Tim Lung, the county's chief senior planner.

The plan shows a 79,263-square-foot, single-story school with a central section and two wings. One wing will house the pre-K and kindergarten classrooms, the other will house the first- and second-grade classrooms, and the offices, common areas and gym will be in the center section, Lung said.

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The site plan also shows an option to add an activity room and community gym at the back of the building, and a canopied drop-off area at the front, Lung said.

The plan includes several playgrounds and a multipurpose athletic field, he said.

The school will have a bus loop that enters and exits on Yale Drive and a separate entrance on Yale Drive for staff and students, he said. Those entrances will be near the entrances to Eastern Elementary School, which is on the other side of Yale Drive, he said.

The school will have at least 110 parking spaces to accommodate its 75 employees and any parents or visitors, Lung said. If the community gym is built, an additional 32 spaces will be added, he said.

Planning commission ex-officio member Jim Kercheval asked whether there was enough parking for events at the school, stressing that Yale Drive could not handle parents parking on both sides of the street. School system officials said the parking lots at Eastern Elementary could be used for evening events if needed.

Planning commission members also asked whether buses headed from the elementary school to the primary school would disrupt traffic on Yale Drive, particularly when the new hospital is built at Robinwood, which could also add traffic to Yale Drive.

"I don't mean to second-guess all the engineers and the Board of Ed, but we'd better think this one out right, because let me tell you, if we get these entrances wrong, we'll be paying for a long time," said planning commission member Andrew Bowen, who noted that buses leaving a school sometimes stack up "like elephants at the circus."

Chad Criswell, director of facilities, planning and development for Washington County Public Schools, said the schools would only have a few buses coming in at a time. Criswell also said a traffic study was completed that took into account traffic from the new hospital, which was reviewed with county staff for "many, many hours."

The plans include widening Yale Drive from two lanes to four, designer Mark Felton said.

The Board of Education was scheduled to consider a bid for the construction of Eastern Primary School during its meeting today.

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