Bester Elementary School students and teachers could be in a new $17 million elementary school by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
After listening to four concept plans during a Washington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, board members voted 4-3 to eliminate two concepts that called for incorporating part of the existing school into a new/renovated Bester.
That leaves two options that both call for building a new 73,186-square-foot school on the back end of the school property, which is at the northeast corner of South Potomac Street and Memorial Boulevard in Hagerstown. That puts the new school closer to Julia Manor Health Care Center, which is off Mill Street.
One of the remaining options, known as concept A1, would leave the existing school's original 1930 building and 1938 rear wing for a future use and raze the 1965 addition.
The other remaining option — the one recommended by the design team — would raze all of the existing school and provide more open space for playing fields.
Education officials have talked about renovating or replacing Bester for more than a decade, but the project kept getting delayed.
The school system is paying Grimm & Parker Architects of Calverton, Md., $156,970 for the feasibility study and conceptual drawings.
Board President Wayne Ridenour and members Justin Hartings, Donna Brightman and Paul Bailey voted in favor of eliminating concepts B and C.
Board Vice President W. Edward Forrest and members Karen Harshman and Jacqueline Fischer voted against eliminating concepts B and C.
Forrest said he favored the design team's recommended option, concept A. He said he wants to go ahead and get the new school built because it's long overdue. He said his gut feeling was the existing school will be torn down anyway, and he'd like to get the project moving forward as quickly as possible because of the competitive nature of getting school construction funds.
Harshman said she voted no because she wanted all four options brought to the public before the board made a decision. That would have allowed people interested in the school's history to share their views, she said.
Fischer, the third person to vote no, could not be reached after the meeting for comment, because board members went into a closed session after the regular meeting. They had a coffee and conversation event scheduled at the technical high school on Tuesday evening.
The board voted 6-1, with Harshman dissenting, to authorize staff to spend up to $50,000 to consult with the Maryland Historical Trust about the original school building.
The original building is in the Hagerstown historic district. The historical trust and school system must come to a memorandum of agreement concerning the possible demolition of the building before the project can move forward, project officials said.
The process calls for a public meeting with interested parties.
Possible remedies with the historical trust could be displaying historical artifacts in the new school's lobby or preserving elements of the original building for the new school's design, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development.