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School board to reconsider blueprint proposal

Issue to be further discussed after architects argue against single-design plan

May 05, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Board of Education will reconsider a proposal that would allow school system officials to use one blueprint to build multiple schools.

The board was scheduled to vote on the matter during its meeting Tuesday, but decided to further discuss the topic after four architects presented arguments opposing the use of a single-design plan.

The architects were Dirk DeVault of Hagerstown; James H. Determan Jr. and M. Eileen English, both of Baltimore-based Hord, Coplan and Macht; and John F. Corkill Jr. of Corkill, Cush and Reeves of Bowie, Md.

Each architect spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. They said all buildings need some level of new design to adjust for topography.

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Determan said 24 states no longer use prototype designs because they present too many problems.

"Plans become hopelessly obsolete," he said. "There are generally no savings to the community."

Prototypes also fail to keep up with energy-saving changes in technology, he said, which can cost more to operate a building in the long run.

Determan and DeVault said they understood the board was considering the proposal to save the taxpayers money.

"(But) cheaper isn't always better," DeVault said.

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 architectural 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.

Determan said the architects weren't at the board meeting because they were afraid of losing business.

"We're here because design matters," he said.

The board agreed to further consider the proposal, keeping all options open for school construction.

"I think it makes sense to take a few more weeks and look at it," Board Vice President Justin Hartings said.

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