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Washington County Public Schools chief to look into options for new administrative offices

June 05, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution for the superintendent to investigate a long-term solution for housing the school system’s administrative offices.

The superintendent is to report back to the school board no later than Dec. 31, according to the resolution board member Justin Hartings said he drafted over the weekend.

Hartings said the board doesn’t have to do anything with the superintendent’s results, but “I think we need to make sure we’re not throwing good money after bad.”

Hartings’ resolution calls for not using any school system funds for maintenance at the school system’s current Central Office, located off Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown, without the board’s approval.

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An exception would be emergency fixes that are required if the problem could affect critical administrative operations, according to the resolution.

The administrative centers, including a nearby building at 701 Frederick St., have an estimated $4,757,000 in deferred maintenance, although most of that is for the Commonwealth Avenue portion, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael has said.

The Central Office complex has original sections from 1938 and 1958, with additions in 1966, 1969 and 1990.

When there are heavy rains, such as during last week’s storms, portions of the Central Office’s roof leak, school system officials said.

After the board meeting, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said what is believed to be mold or mildew has been smelled in the Central Office, but no one has been brought in to confirm either is in the building.

“I would just ask everyone to think about what the real consequences would be if we had to shut this building down,” Hartings said during the meeting, citing operations that could be affected such as email and payroll.

Board member Donna Brightman asked about the status of maintenance projects in the building.

Michael said there were some offices being painted and cleaned, but the school system had not yet moved forward with plans to invest in carpet and asbestos removal.

Hartings’ resolution leaves open the options Wilcox can investigate, including whether to renovate all or part of the Central Office or other buildings the school system may or may not own. Another option is a public-private partnership to create new or renovated administrative offices or support facilities.

Brightman asked that any recommendations the superintendent makes include a funding model. She also asked that school system officials investigate a diversity of models, including ones that might reduce the “footprint” required to deliver services because the delivery of instruction and support could change drastically in the future.

Brightman said the superintendent’s resulting report and recommendations should be shared during a public session.

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