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School board asking for $15.8 million for capital improvements

Plans include building a new Bester Elementary School and possibly land for a 'West City' elementary school

November 01, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Funds to begin construction of a new Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown and to possibly look for land for a new "West City" elementary school are among the reasons the county school board is asking for $15.8 million for capital improvements for the next fiscal year.

The seven-member Washington County Board of Education voted 6-0 during a meeting Tuesday afternoon at the central office in Hagerstown to approve its county funding request for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2012, according to an online broadcast of the meeting.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer was absent.

The school system has not acquired land yet for a West City elementary, but the school board is asking the Washington County Board of Commissioners for $150,000 to conduct environmental and engineering studies in case land is found for it, school officials said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

The West City project is a higher priority than a new South County elementary school, a decision school system officials made earlier this year due to slowing enrollment growth in the southern part of the county.

Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said officials are hoping to identify land for the West City school within the next 10 months. If that happens — and the school board's priority for the West City project remains the same — school officials expect to submit the project to the state next September for planning approval.

If the state grants the approval, then it would fund the project if money is available, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development. The county funds could be spent before land is acquired if school system officials think there is a need to investigate a potential site before purchase, he said.

The bulk of the $15,834,000 funding request, $11.8 million, is for school construction projects.

To begin construction of a new school to replace Bester Elementary, the school board is asking the county for $8.8 million.

The request for county funds also includes $2,850,000 to make final payments on the new Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School, which opened this school year.

Monroe Primary came in $700,400 under budget, a savings to the county, Rollins said.

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