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WCPS scales back plans for east city high school

$50 million price tag for the high school does not include land acquisition or necessary infrastructure

February 22, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools officials have scaled back plans for an east city high school, reducing the estimated project cost from $73 million to about $50 million.

The latest plan for the school calls for an initial student capacity of 800 students, but core space that could handle 1,200 students to allow for future expansion, Robert Rollins, the school system's director of facilities planning and development, told the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday.

The county's share of the project would be about $24 million.

Previously, the county had been planning to build a school for about 1,200 students with space to support up to 1,600, but slower growth has made that unnecessary, said Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent of public schools.

"What we've done is adjusted to what the economic climate's doing right now," Michael said.

The east city high school project is scheduled to begin in fiscal 2016 or later.

Until then, portable classroom use will continue to increase at the five high schools the east city school is slated to relieve — North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Williamsport, Boonsboro and Smithsburg, South said.

The roughly $50 million price tag for the high school does not include land acquisition or necessary infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

The new high school is one of several capital projects on the horizon for the school system, according to proposed updates to the county's 10-year Capital Improvement Plan.

The next major project scheduled is a $22.4 million replacement school for Bester Elementary, currently in the evaluation stages, said Joseph Kroboth III, director of Washington County public works. That project could enter the planning phases next fiscal year and begin construction in fiscal 2013, according to the capital plan.

Meanwhile, at Hagerstown Community College, where a STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, building and performing and visual arts center project are already under way, the next project on the horizon is a plan to roughly double the size of the student center, HCC President Guy Altieri said.

The student center houses a bookstore, is the central dining location on campus and provides meeting space for the Student Government Association and many student clubs, Altieri said.

"Frequently, when we have large activities, we have to open all the doors and people are hanging outside the building," Altieri said.

That project is expected to cost about $8 million, with officials hoping to get about half that amount from the state.

Construction is scheduled for fiscal 2015.

Kroboth also updated the commissioners on the status of a $5.8 million county senior center set to be built on the HCC campus.

Design of the senior center is nearly finished, and construction could start around June, Kroboth said.

State and private grant funding for the project will have to be set up before it can be advertised for construction bids, Kroboth said.

While the county had budgeted an anticipated $1 million for the project from a private foundation, officials have recently learned the actual amount awarded might be only a quarter million dollars, he said.

 However, the county has extra funds to cover the difference as a result of other projects coming in under budget, Kroboth said.

State officials have indicated that an anticipated state grant will come through, he said.

The Washington County Commissioners approve an updated capital spending plan each spring along with the county budget. That vote typically takes place in May. Fiscal 2012 begins July 1.

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Proposed school projects

The following are estimated costs and start dates for Washington County Public Schools projects proposed in a draft 10-year capital plan:

• Bester Elementary School replacement, $22.4 million, fiscal 2012

• South county elementary school, $18.8 million, fiscal 2014

• East city high school, $49.9 million, fiscal 2016

• West city elementary school, $19.9 million, fiscal 2018

• Fountaindale Elementary School additions and renovation, $18.6 million, fiscal 2020

• Boonsboro High School modernization, $49.7 million,  fiscal 2020

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