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WCPS officials plan to build four schools, modernize two others

December 09, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County Public Schools officials intend to begin building four schools and modernizing two others by the end of fiscal year 2017.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Executive Director of School Operations Rob Rollins during a Washington County Board of Education meeting.

Rollins said the tentative plan includes building an "East City" high school and two elementary schools, one in South County and one in the city's West End. Bester Elementary School would be replaced with a new building at the current site, he said, and Fountaindale Elementary School and E. Russell Hicks Middle School would be modernized.

Rollins said land would have to be acquired for the high school and elementary schools.

Rollins mentioned the construction and modernization plans as he told the board that system officials intended to request about $19.6 million from the county to pay for capital improvement projects in fiscal year 2011.

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He said about $1.5 million of the capital improvement request would be used for maintenance, $2.1 million for systemic projects such as replacing roofs and windows, $100,000 for projects involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, and about $16 million for construction.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said new schools are needed to reduce overcrowding in the system, which has increased by about 1,700 students over the last six years.

The student population is projected to increase for at least five more years, Rollins said.

Morgan said system officials have addressed overcrowding by building three elementary schools -- Maugansville, Pangborn and Rockland Woods -- that opened during the 2008-09 school year.

In October, the board approved the construction of Eastern Primary School on the east end of Hagerstown. The $25 million school is slated to open in August 2011 and have a state-rated capacity of 695 students.

Morgan said the new schools would improve the quality of education by decreasing classroom size.

Donna Brightman was the only member of the seven-member board who said she opposed the capital improvement list.

Brightman said she believed the board should be "very careful" when asking for public funding at a time when the state budget is facing a $2 billion shortfall.

"I think we're moving forward thinking we can pay for all of this," Brightman said. "I find this very disconcerting ... What if we don't have state money coming in?"

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