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Old Bester Elementary School will be torn down after new one built

June 07, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

The old Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown will be torn down after the new one is built, providing more open space for playing fields and saving the school system the cost of maintaining the old building.

The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to approve a design plan will raze the old school once the new one is built behind it.

Construction of the new school, slated to open in August 2014, is estimated to cost $17,253,015 and take 23 months, according to the feasibility study. The estimated cost is $19,065,787 when including contingency money for inflation and unexpected problems with the soil or construction, school facilities officials said Tuesday.

A geotechnical study will be done soon to check the stability of the soil, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development. The foundation of the school's 1965 addition appears to have shifted, which can be indicative of soft soil, Rollins said after the presentation to the school board.

The cost figures include the demolition of the old school. Demolishing the entire existing school would cost $336,240, compared to $165,930 to demolish only part of the school, which was the other option under consideration. By razing the old school, the school system will not have to pay for its maintenance and utilities, which were estimated to cost at least $90,000 a year.

The school board voted 4-3 on April 12 to eliminate two concepts that called for incorporating part of the existing school into a new/renovated Bester. That left the option approved Tuesday afternoon and another option calling for the original 1930 building and 1938 rear wing to remain standing for reuse. Either option would result in the demolition of the 1965 addition to the South End school.

Bester Principal Kristi Bachtell said people who spoke during a May 16 community meeting about whether to completely demolish the old Bester had concerns about the older building being broken into, covered with graffiti, or attracting illegal activity such as drugs or gangs, if it was left standing. Community members talked a lot of about wanting green space in which the children could play because many of the homes in the neighborhood don't have yards, she said.

The overwhelming opinion was to raze the old school, Bachtell said.

Bachtell said a Washington County Historical Society representative told her the school didn't really have any historical significance left since the 1988 renovation.

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The school system will recognize the historical significance of the existing school by doing a mixture of things, Rollins said. They will probably include incorporating the 1930 emblem above the school’s old front door into the new school and creating a display about the existing school’s history, he said.

The existing Bester Elementary will not be torn down until the new school is done so Bester students and staff will not need to be relocated during construction.

Any abatement necessary, such as removal of asbestos, will be done before the demolition, Rollins said.

The board also voted unanimously to award the remaining phases of the architectural design services contract to Grimm & Parker Architects for $849,300. The Calverton, Md., firm conducted the feasibility study and created the conceptual drawings for $156,970.

The board approved a change order, not to exceed $50,000, for the firm on April 12 to cover the cost of additional work required by the historic trust, according to presentation documents.

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