Over a nearly four-hour meeting Wednesday, the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education came to a consensus to send a letter agreeing to move to the former North Carroll High School after months of back-and-forth with county commissioners.
The board also voted to amend the Capital Improvement Plan to include a concept that would phase in a renovation for the Carroll County Career and Technology Center over time, and to look at a K-8 concept or other grade configurations to possibly replace East Middle and William Winchester Elementary schools
The CCPS school board voted 4-0, with board President Devon Rothschild absent, to amend the Capital Improvement Plan funding request to start out with an addition only for the Tech Center. The plan would cost $9.7 million and address the waiting list for a number of programs.
CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said the project would be designed over this year, with construction money in fiscal year 2020. The addition would bring 21,000 more square feet to the facility, he said.
The modernization part of the project, which most in the county agree is also needed, would be phased in over a number of years.
“It makes the project affordable,” Guthrie said. “I’m trying to present to you an alternative to keep the project alive.”
The original CIP called for a nearly $90 million project to expand and modernize the facility, though school officials repeatedly said that they wouldn’t go forward with a project that actually cost that much.
Still, board member Donna Sivigny expressed concern over doing the project this way, for fear that it would come out to $87 million, just spread out over a period of time. Sivigny did acknowledge that something has to be done “and something needs to be done now” for the Tech Center.
The school board also agreed to amend the CIP request, removing the systemic renovations requested for East Middle School, giving board members time to look at grade configurations like a K-8 model as a possible replacement for the middle school and William Winchester Elementary School.
Guthrie said this would give the school system time to continue its look into redistricting and facility utilization, something it has been doing since last spring.
Sivigny also said it’s important to know what the end goal is before decisions are finalized.
“We need to know what that end state is going to look like,” she said. “We need the parameters to be set and to come up with a comprehensive plan we need to vote on.”
The school board announced options to provide feedback in its facility utilization and redistricting discussion about the parameters and type of committee that should be used. The school board contracted with Paula Singer to facilitate the gathering of public feedback.
Community members will be able to provide feedback through an online survey, which according to a news release, is “designed to gather feedback on both the process and various parameters to be considered in redistricting and facility utilization decisions.” The survey will be available from Oct. 11 to 31 at www.carrollk12.org/boe/redistrictingfacilityutilization/Pages/default.aspx.
There will also be a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 in the auditorium of Winters Mill High School.
Also on Wednesday, the school board voted to go along with the Board of County Commissioner’s plan to move CCPS Central Office to the former North Carroll High School facility.
This comes after Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, gave a presentation to the town of Hampstead Tuesday night, and after commissioners sent a letter to the school board in September giving them a summer 2019 deadline to move.
Weaver, along with Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees and Director of Carroll County Recreation and Parks Jeff Degitz, came out Tuesday to the Hampstead town meeting to make a presentation about plans for the community’s former school. North Carroll, along with New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary schools, were closed at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
Commissioners Doug Howard, R-District 5, and Weaver, whose district includes the North Carroll building, presented a concept plan at the beginning of March that would relocate the BOE central office and a portion of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office to the former high school in Hampstead, and allow for use of the facility by the Department of Recreation and Parks. Since that time, the sheriff's office has also requested, and been approved, to bring a training facility to the former school.
Guthrie said while the school system had previously directed staff not to work with county government on forward steps to move to the former North Carroll school until everything was figured out, he wanted to release them immediately to begin working with the county.
“The letter indicates that the discussion is that space at former North Carroll has been allocated from the move,” Guthrie said of the September letter from commissioners.“I would like to suggest we agree to the move pending certain conditions.”
Guthrie laid out some specifics he recommended requiring before agreeing to the move, like receiving a presentation like was given to the town of Hampstead, and that the space be designed to meet the school system’s needs to function, to which Sivigny agreed.
She also requested the commissioners consider adding more funds to the school system’s budget to cover additional travel expenses for staff moving around the county to different schools. And, she said, she thinks it’s important CCPS and the public know how much it will cost to actually move the school system’s central office.
“I think we need an understanding of the long term capital costs for this projects,” she said, which includes updating the HVAC system and the roof.
Board member Marsha Herbert, who is a former North Carroll High teacher, said it was time to go ahead with the move and work with the school’s partners across the street.
“I think it’s time to move on. Let’s get it done. Let’s work with the commissioners,” she said, though she, too, emphasized that it’s important to understand there will be more expenses for staff driving to the different schools, and that it’s important for school staff to be out and in the community at the different buildings.
The school board had repeatedly opposed the move, most recently presenting an idea that would require a new building. The BOE approved a feasibility study to examine the possibility of relocating to the Friendship Valley Elementary School campus and building a new office next to the school.
And while in August the two groups did eventually agree to meet to discuss the move — after a back-and-forth in which commissioners refused to meet after the BOE broached the possibility of taking legal action — no such meeting has occurred.