New Elmer Wolfe Elementary favored rather than renovation

August 18, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Renovation plans that would make 63-year-old Elmer Wolfe Elementary School look brand new have been scrapped in favor of a brand new building.

The Carroll County School Board approved yesterday the schematic documents that detail the construction of a larger, more modern elementary school on the grounds of the current school in Union Bridge.

"I think we need to invest money properly," said school board President John D. Myers Jr. in support of the new facility.

"I went head to head with [former School Board President] Ed Lippy about [building a new] Hampstead Elementary School. He won and I lost, and it was the right thing to do because that project worked out very well."

If the school board had rejected a new Union Bridge school, the Elmer Wolfe Construction Planning Committee would have been "back to the drawing board" to create schematic documents for the renovation, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

The committee needed the plans approved in time to have the project considered for state funding in fiscal 1996.

"It does cost a little bit more money to do a replacement school than it does for a renovation," Mr. Smith told the board. "There's a $1.3 million difference, but we're going to asked the state for most of that."

The school system originally planned to renovate the Elmer Wolfe building on Green Valley Road, a box-shaped, three-level structure built in 1931 and enhanced with a classroom addition in 1951 and a cafeteria in 1969.

The school is not handicapped-accessible and has limited classroom space. Some students meet in nonclassroom areas, such as the lunch room or at desks in the stairwell.

The fifth grade is housed at nearby New Windsor Middle School.

The plan was to move the elementary students to the old New Windsor Middle School building -- which will be vacant once the new middle school is completed -- while the elementary school was overhauled.

But when the Construction Planning Committee -- a parent, teacher and administration group -- worked to develop a renovation schematic, another course of action emerged: build a new school.

That was supported when Michael F. Trostel, a historical architect, recommended that the school board not renovate the original portion of the school building.

"In order to upgrade the early structure to meet today's health, safety and educational standards and to make the building functional for the next 40 years, the entire interior must be removed and rebuilt," Mr. Trostel wrote to Dr. Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities.

He said the original building was of little historical significance.

Vernon Smith, director of school support services, said that if the original structure were rebuilt, work would be constrained by the additions.

R. C. Garcia, an architect with the design team of Frederick Ward Associates and SHW Group, told the school board, "A 100 percent new facility could utilize all the current features and philosophies of a state-of-the-art school building."

The schematic package included drawings for a 60,000-square-foot elementary school with art and music facilities, a library, cafeteria and gymnasium, and a courtyard with a little amphitheater at its center.

Mr. Garcia said that a one-level school could be built to ease handicapped-accessibility.

A new facility also could meet current setback requirements. The existing school is very close to the road.

The school system could also purchase adjoining land so the school service lanes and bus loops would be part of the campus.

Now, the driveway leading into the school parking and bus dropoff area is not on school property.

New construction would solve the problem of housing Elmer Wolfe students while the work was being done, Mr. Smith said.

"The children could attend classes in the old building while the new one was being built behind it," Mr. Smith said. "When the students moved into the new building, they could tear down the old one."

School board members agreed with the committee's recommendations and added a few blessings of their own to the project.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell did not comment on the construction of a new building. But he did ask whether the school board would consider allowing the school library to be a public library.

The board said that idea could be considered further along in the planning process.

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