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Washington Co. school board to consider capital improvement plan

Bester Elementary replacement or renovation likely to be included

September 16, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County Board of Education members will be asked Tuesday to approve a state capital improvement plan for the next fiscal year that is expected to include a funding request to start designing a new Bester Elementary or renovate the existing school.

The capital improvement plan (CIP) also will list those projects for which Washington County Public Schools officials want to request state money in upcoming fiscal years, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development. Those longer-term projects are expected to include a new South County elementary school that has moved up on the priority list.

Board members will be asked to approve the state funding requests for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2011, Rollins said. The school board must submit its CIP to the state by Oct. 6, he said.

A copy of the proposed CIP was not yet available, but Rollins said the CIP typically mirrors the Educational Facilities Master Plan.

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The master plan refers to the school system's direction, projected enrollment and capacity, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said. The CIP is a companion document that provides updated anticipated costs for the projects in the master plan and lays out the schedule for state funding requested for school projects, he said.

The school system also submits to the county a CIP that mirrors the state CIP and usually has additional projects that are not eligible for or aren't expected to receive state funding, Rollins said. That CIP also includes any funding requests for land purchases because the county buys land for school construction, he said.

The tentative deadline for the county CIP is Dec. 3, according to an e-mail from County Budget and Finance Director Debra Murray.

The school board unanimously approved the 2010 facilities master plan June 1, according to meeting minutes.

The top two items on the master plan of 11 projects are Antietam Academy, which is being built off West Oak Ridge Drive and is expected to open in January, and Ruth Ann Monroe Primary, which is being built across from Eastern Elementary, off Mount Aetna Road. That school is expected to be ready for the next school year.

In fiscal year 2011-12, the school system would need state funds to finish paying for Antietam Academy and to finish building Monroe Primary, Rollins said.

The next highest priority in the master plan is replacing or renovating Bester Elementary in Hagerstown, followed by construction of a new elementary school in the south end of the county and a new elementary school in or near Hagerstown's West End.

Bids on a Bester feasibility study, which will determine whether the school is renovated or a new one is built, are being reviewed and are expected to be presented to the school board in October, Rollins said. The original 1930 portion of the school was renovated in 1988 and another part of the school was built in 1965.

The master plan calls for planning and construction money for the Bester project in fiscal 2011-12, but Rollins said construction is unlikely to begin that year.

Making plans

The South County elementary school project was moved up the priority list from a desired completion date of August 2018 to August 2015. That came after school system officials reviewed enrollment projections that took into account possible developments in the area, Rollins said.

The South County project would be dependent upon those residential developments being built, he said.

The master plan also calls for a three-round school to be built by August 2015, and the plan's seventh priority is an addition, if needed, to expand that elementary school to five rounds. Each round refers to the number of classrooms per grade level.

Under the master plan, the new South County elementary would be either a regular elementary school or a primary school, housing prekindergarten through second grade. Third-graders would go to Boonsboro Elementary.

Rollins said school system officials are not currently looking at putting the new school on the Boonsboro campus because doing so would add to traffic congestion in the area.

Projects dropped

Three projects that were part of the 2009 facilities master plan but did not make it into the 2010 plan were an addition and limited renovation to E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown's South End, and modernizations of Cascade Elementary and Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

The Hicks project was taken from the list because the school was no longer expected to be as overcrowded as earlier believed, Rollins said.

The Cascade project was pulled because air conditioning and new windows were added within the last year thanks to state funding and the generosity of PenMar Development Corp., Rollins said. PenMar has donated more than $1 million to fix up the school.

The Hancock project was taken off the list after school system officials reviewed their priorities, Rollins said.

Other priorities

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