Board Hopes To Replace, Not Repair, Meade Heights, Solley Schools

April 17, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff writer

The Board of Education is hoping to replace the Meade Heights and Solley elementary school buildings, after estimates for renovations proved nearly as high as those for replacing the buildings.

Ron Beckett, assistant superintendent for support services, said an engineering study into the merits of renovating Meade Heights showed that a back wall was in far worse shape than anyone realized.

"We knew (the wall) was a problem," Beckett said. "We just didn'tknow quite how bad it was. It was far worse than we expected.

"The school is situated on an underground stream that's created some structural problems. In order to renovate, the cost went up markedly. Weestimate it would have cost 80 percent of a new school," he said.

Renovating the existing school at a cost of about $5 million would not have made sense, when a newer and larger school could be built forabout $6.5 million, Beckett said.

The new Meade Heights would have a capacity of 450 students, as compared with 218 in the existing building. The current enrollment is 298. The school is scheduled to have four portable classrooms next school year to alleviate its overcrowding.

The land on which Meade Heights sits is owned by the federalgovernment and leased by the school system. Beckett said the board has asked for land from Fort Meade in addition to the 5 acres currently leased.

Fort Meade officials appear receptive to the idea, Beckett said. They also have expressed some interest in taking over the existing Meade Heights once the new school is in use.

Base spokesmanDon McClow said that officials aren't sure how they will use it, butthought it may be used as a training facility.

Beckett said that the state has approved the project, but not the money. The school system is hoping the county will pay for construction, in anticipation of being reimbursed by the state.

The board also has received approval from the state to construct a new Solley Elementary school.

Like Meade Heights, Solley has structural problems that would have pushed renovation costs nearly as high as the cost of building a new school.

Beckett said the new Solley school will be built on land adjacent to the existing school, but farther back from Solley Road. The new school's capacity will be increased from its current 85 students and will reduce overcrowding at nearby High Point Elementary, Beckett said.

Provided the county agrees to subsidize the projects, both Meade Heights and Solley are expected to be completed and ready to be occupied by September 1994.

On another construction front, the system is making contingency plans to deal with a possible delay in the opening of the newly renovated Severna Park Elementary.

Severna Park is scheduled to reopen this fall, but Beckett said that the school system is in dispute with the contractors over a portion of the payment. The contractor has threatened to walk off the project unless the dispute is resolved, Beckett said.

Students at the elementary school currently attend Severna Park Junior High, but most depart in September to make room for the sixth-graders who will be attending Severna Park Junior High for the first time.

Even though school officials believe the dispute will be resolved and the school will open on time, Beckett said contingency plans are being made.

"We always planfor the worst and hope for the best," he said.

Staff writer PeterHermann contributed to this story.

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