Havre de Grace High School project

Debate continues among Harford County Board of Education members about the best course of action to take in modernizing or replacing the buildings at Havre de Grace High School. (Harford County Public Schools, Homestead Publishing / December 4, 2012)

A decision whether or not to replace the Havre de Grace High School buildings or renovate them was put on hold again Monday night by the Harford County Board of Education.

The latest delay could be a prelude to considering a plan to build a new combined high and middle school, similar to what was done at Patterson Mill High and Middle Schools in Bel Air.

A combined project to replace both Havre de Grace schools was one suggestion made after the school board tabled a vote to select one of four recommended alternatives contained in scope study of options for upgrading the high school, including constructing a complete replacement building.

A vote on the study also was scheduled during the board's Nov. 5 meeting, but it, too, was postponed because the board had more questions.

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While the board was delaying action again on future course of action, an influential Harford County Council member said Tuesday there remain concerns about the financial justification for a full replacement facility in light of the high school's low enrollment compared with others around the county.

More board questions

The scope study was on the agenda for Monday night's school board meeting in Bel Air but was pulled by board member and Havre de Grace resident Thomas Fitzpatrick.

"Both [people] inside the board and outside the board have questions and are seeking additional information in reference to the scope study for Havre de Grace High School," Fitzpatrick said.

While he stressed the board will still hold its commitment to the "goals we set out" in school construction, as was detailed in the board's capital improvement plan approved earlier this fall, Fitzpatrick asked to postpone the board's decision on the scope of the HHS project to a later date, which has yet to be determined.

The board approved the postponement, with all but member Alysson Krchnavy voting in agreement.

Board Vice President Nancy Reynolds then offered a motion to "evaluate other possible options, such as building a combination middle and high school and/or acquiring other suitable property for the high school."

That motion was unanimously approved.

Other possibilities

Board President Rick Grambo asked Superintendent Robert Tomback if there would be a cost associated with the additional evaluations.

While there would be costs associated with land acquisition or commissioning another scope study, Tomback responded, he couldn't say what they would be.

"I'm not asking for an additional scope study," Reynolds said. "I'm just asking for your staff to investigate it to the best of their ability."

"Ideas are free, so we can certainly provide those," Tomback answered.

Reynolds added that the Patterson Mill Middle/High School, which opened in 2007 and was built to relieve overcrowding at other secondary schools in the greater Bel Air area, has been "very, very successful."

With Havre de Grace Middle and High schools having "relatively low" populations, she suggested it might be in the school system's best interest to combine the two, especially since the middle school qualifies as an aged facility in the county.

According to the school system's website, Havre de Grace Middle opened in 1967, while Havre de Grace High's complex has portions that date to 1955 and that were substantially renovated in 1983. The middle school is the second oldest middle building in the county; the high school is the oldest building among its counterparts.