Upgrade officially begins at Key High Students and faculty endure noise, hardship during long renovation

October 21, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

What's shaking at Francis Scott Key High School these days? Everything.

"In two classrooms, the floors were vibrating," said Principal George Phillips of the effects of holding classes in the middle of a schoolwide renovation.

The symbolic groundbreaking was yesterday for the $16.3 million project, but the work actually started in the spring. Since they came back to school in late August, the 1,030 students at the Uniontown school and their teachers have been tolerating the background noise of air hammers, backhoes and other equipment.

The payoff will be a larger, modern school. Currently, Key is the smallest and most outdated in Carroll.

Although the project will take a total of three years, a large part will be completed by December 1998, Phillips said. This phase includes an expanded and updated science and technology classroom section and a new media center.

Though teachers and students have been good sports about the disruption, Phillips said, he has been trying to hold regular meetings with the staff to discuss complaints and how best to deal with problems.

"We're going to be talking to the kids, too, polling them at random," Phillips said.

For example, Phillips has noticed a slight decline in attendance, about 1 percent below last year for the same period. He doesn't know why, he said, but he wants to find out.

"It's a little more crowded," Phillips said of the general environment. And classes and departments have shifted all over the building. For example, the science classes have been moved to where the math and English classes used to be, as well as into a portable building, while their section of the building is being renovated.

To accommodate the science labs, school maintenance workers extended plumbing into classrooms that were adjacent to restrooms in the English/math area.

English and math have relocated to other rooms in the building. Several teachers "float" among classrooms, sharing space and taking their supplies along in a wheeled cart.

The special education and business section of the building is the noisiest this week, but Phillips said the noise will soon spread throughout the school as construction workers dig into the central courtyard for underground utility work.

Because the construction area is taking up space where students once parked, parking has become an even rarer privilege, Phillips said.

Only seniors and students with jobs, sports or other pressing needs may apply for a parking spot, and even then, not all are granted space. Phillips has more than 200 legitimate student requests for about 120 spaces.

The community has been pushing for years for the school's renovation, but the school had to take a back seat to other projects to which the state and county gave more weight because of crowding.

Key won out in 1996 when Gov. Parris N. Glendening made money available to renovate older school buildings. But the funding was touch-and-go during the early part of this year.

Overall, the state is putting $6.6 million into the Key renovation and expansion, but it plans to spread that aid over two or three years.

School officials warned that doing the project piecemeal with different contractors would jeopardize the quality of the work, so the County Commissioners approved transfers from other funds to ensure the cash flow necessary to put the project out to bid all at once.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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