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School board considers possibility of south county elementary

Boonsboro and Sharpsburg both experiencing overcrowding issues

June 11, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Replacing Sharpsburg Elementary School remains Washington County Public School’s next construction priority — after replacing Bester Elementary and building a “West City” elementary — although one county school board member last week asked about the possibility of building a general south county elementary school instead.

If the school system were to use enrollment figures at the overcrowded Sharpsburg Elementary to justify a need for state funding for a south county elementary school instead of replacing Sharpsburg Elementary, that would mean the “elimination of Sharpsburg” Elementary, Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael told board member Donna Brightman.

The Washington County Board of Education unanimously approved school construction priorities June 4 after officials presented a revised list, taking into account feedback from board members during a May work session.

Moved up on the list were the modernization, and possible replacements, of Western Heights and E. Russell Hicks middle schools in Hagerstown.

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Other high school and elementary projects were removed from the list in lieu of general references for the school system staff to study ways to create capacity for elementary and high school programs.

Those ways could include building new schools, additions and renovations, or using other school system property such as the recently purchased office building on Downsville Pike and a facilities department building on Frederick Street.

Brightman asked facility officials why the plan to replace Sharpsburg Elementary was still a separate item and not part of the broader discussion about elementary capacity ideas for the southern part of the county.

Michael said there was a short-term need at Sharpsburg Elementary because, apart from the elementary schools already slated to be replaced, it is the one in the worst shape.

The fact that Sharpsburg Elementary is overcrowded, along with overcrowding at Boonsboro Elementary, could support a request for state funding for replacing Sharpsburg Elementary, Michael said.

On Thursday, Brightman said she wasn’t convinced how the school system should address elementary capacity issues in the southern part of the county, but she wanted school system officials to “stay open to other solutions. I don’t know what that looks like right now.”

“The Sharpsburg community is very supportive of local community schools, and I understand that,” Brightman said.

But Brightman said there also is a need for elementary capacity in Boonsboro, and she thinks the school system should have a solution for that before housing growth starts again in that area.

Brightman said she also wants to hear from the community about the issue.

Michael told board members on June 4 that officials are pursuing land around Sharpsburg Elementary because the current site is not big enough for a new school. There is a tract near the school for sale, but it would require other property to be bought as well, he said.

Sharpsburg Elementary was built in 1936. It was expanded in 1967 and again in 1983, when the school was renovated, according to school system documents.

Sharpsburg had 303 students last fall, which was 51 more than its state-rated capacity of 252 students, according to a facility fact sheet.

Boonsboro Elementary had 597 students last fall, 83 more than its state-rated capacity of 514 students.

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