Panel doing its homework on high school designs Flexible space is key for buildings in works

October 03, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

What should a high school for 2001 look like? What kind of rooms? How should it be laid out? And how big?

Those are a few of the questions that a school-board-appointed committee of about two dozen parents, teachers and principals began preparing to answer yesterday. They plan to write the specifications for the next two high schools to be built in Carroll County -- at Linton Springs for 2001 and in Westminster for 2002.

"Traditional schools have had the straight hallways and rooms on either side," said David Booz, principal of South Carroll High School. "However, that straight hallway idea may not be what we need."

The space should be flexible, he said, such as with clusters of rooms that can be used in different ways and areas that can be used for a variety of subjects.

"We've got to have instructional spaces that are flexible enough to be traditional -- and to meet the needs of the future," said Greg Eckles, director of secondary education.

Among the ideas the committee saw on paper, from floor plans of high schools that have recently been built or are under construction, is a building with "clusters." River Hill High School, for example, in Clarksville, Howard County, has a ninth-grade cluster, a wing in which students have most of their classes and get to know a smaller group of teachers.

Sherri-Le Brehm, principal at Westminster High School, told the group that principals nationwide have recommended high schools with smaller units within a school, so that students don't feel anonymous, and staff members get to know them. Ninth-grade clusters or "houses" within a school are one way to do this, she said.

On Oct. 16, the committee will visit the newly opened Urbana High School in Frederick and another school under construction in Gettysburg, Pa. The panel also plans to visit River Hill, Wilde Lake and Long Reach high schools in Howard County.

"I think it will be really beneficial to watch these schools up and running with kids in the halls," said Kathleen Sanner, a planner for Carroll County schools.

She said the committee that wrote the specifications for the renovation and expansion at Francis Scott Key High School worked for three months, developing a plan that adapted the old building to new technology and special education needs.

They drew up a great model, Sanner said, but when the square footage was added up, it was too large and expensive. They went back to cut the plan by 10,000 square feet after seeing what could be trimmed and what spaces could be shared.

"It was a wake-up call for us," Sanner said. "You realize that sometimes the wish list does contain some frills."

Carroll County has depended on the state to pay for about half the cost of school construction. That reimbursement is based on 130 square feet per student. Even state officials, however, concede that the formula is outdated.

Because not enough state money is available to fund a more generous formula, county governments are covering the cost of building larger high schools, said Barbara Bice, an architect in the Maryland State Department of Education's facilities department.

For example, Urbana allots 158 square feet per student, River Hill has 144 and Long Reach has 152.

The County Commissioners recently set a guideline of 144 square feet per student to be used when planning Carroll high schools.

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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