Schools list facility needs

4 new buildings, more classrooms, modernization sought in next decade

April 30, 2006|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

The construction of four schools, additional classrooms to accommodate full-day kindergarten and several modernization projects top the system's list of major projects in the coming decade.

School officials plan to push for funding to build Ebb Valley Elementary in the northeast area of the county and a northeast area high school, as well as an elementary school and a middle school in the South Carroll area.

They also hope to complete a slate of renovation, expansion, modernization and other building improvement projects, according to a presentation made during last week's school board meeting.

"It's a realistic list," Ray Prokop, the school system's facilities director, said in an interview late last week. "I don't believe it's a wish list. It's our needs list. Historically, and probably this will continue to be the case, our needs are greater than the funding that's really available. But these are the needs we've identified."

Providing sufficient classroom capacity - making enough room for all the students expected to enroll - is the system's chief priority, Prokop said.

Accordingly, the construction of classrooms at four elementaries - Hampstead, Manchester, Mechanicsville in Gamber and Runnymede in Taneytown - is expected to be completed by August next year at a combined cost of $10.5 million. Funding for those additions have been allocated in county and state budgets, Prokop told board members.

Building plans for Ebb Valley Elementary, estimated to cost about $20 million, remain on schedule despite obstacles that school officials have encountered with a neighboring developer's plans, Prokop said.

Ebb Valley is scheduled to open in August 2008. The opening could be delayed until August 2009 because of difficulty in securing a grading and building permit.

"It's still on track, but a number of issues have to be resolved," Prokop told board members.

A high school for the northeast area remains on track to open in August 2009, according to Prokop's report. Construction of the high school is expected to top $55 million. School officials are looking for a site, he said.

The master plan has three major projects expected to be finished by 2010.

For years, plans to modernize the fine arts center at South Carroll High in Winfield - to bring the facility up to par with the newer county high schools, such as Century in Sykesville - have languished.

In the 2006-2015 facilities master plan that Prokop detailed, the $16.3 million fine arts project was pushed back to 2010.

The modernization and expansion of the Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster and the construction of a middle school in the South Carroll area also are on the list to be completed that year.

Plans on hold

Plans for the technology center have been on hold for many years. Prokop said a cost estimate has not been settled for the project because a scope study - expected to be completed soon - might change the system's plans.

"The long-range plans for the Career and Technology Center have put the cost at $52.6 million, but we know that is going to change," Prokop said. "My gut tells me that the recommendations from the scope study may not be modernization and additions."

He said the school system could be looking at building a facility instead.

A new elementary school in the South Carroll area - at a cost of about $21 million - is projected to open in August 2012 if it stays in the system's long-range plan.

Prokop said school officials will be monitoring enrollment growth in the southern region of the county, where projections indicate that the population might drop in coming years.

To qualify for state construction funding, school officials must demonstrate that the school would be 50 percent full at its opening and at capacity within five years.

For 2013 and beyond, school officials expect they will need to embark on modernization projects at Westminster West Middle, Mount Airy Middle, Westminster East Middle, South Carroll High and Eldersburg Elementary.

Other projects, such as roof replacements and electrical upgrades, while not considered major projects, are important nonetheless, Prokop said.

He described such replacements as critical because they help to extend the life of buildings when funding for modernization projects isn't readily available.

"You can't discount the systemic renovations," he said.

Other items in the plan include science classroom improvements at North Carroll, Liberty, Westminster and South Carroll high schools. It also calls for the enclosure of open-space classrooms at Carrolltowne, Eldersburg and Westminster elementaries and Northwest Middle by 2010.

Board member Cynthia L. Foley expressed concern that the open-space enclosure projects have been in the plan for several years but continue to be ranked as a low priority.

"For as long as I can remember, people at these schools have been begging for those enclosures," she said.

Public meeting

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