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School board weighs using same blueprint to build multiple schools

Proposal could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in design costs

April 20, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Board of Education is considering whether to adopt a policy amendment that would allow system officials to use the same blueprint to construct multiple schools.

The policy change was introduced during a board meeting Tuesday. The proposed amendment requires one more reading before it becomes official.

Board member Ruth Anne Callaham, chair of the board's policy committee, said the proposal could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in design costs.

"It's really a very prudent fiscal thing to do," she said.

The policy change would require the board's approval to hire architectural and engineering services for more than $50,000, according to Washington County Public Schools documents. Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan would have the authority to approve amounts less than $50,000.

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Alex L. Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, made a presentation to the board in March that listed some of the pros and cons of using the same blueprint to build several schools.

He said a single blueprint could save about $400,000 per building in architecture and engineering costs.

Szachnowicz said schools that have the same design also offer advantages to safety-service personnel, who can use one rescue plan in case of an emergency.

Some of the cons that were discussed during the presentation in March included having to adjust prototypes to keep up with rapidly changes in technology and finding land suitable to construct the buildings. In many cases, a prototype calls for schools to be built on flat terrain. Even a minor slope in the ground could cause engineering problems.

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