Design released for new Relay and Westowne Elementary schools

Construction of two new southwest Baltimore County elementary schools at the sites of Relay Elementary and Westowne Elementary will soon be underway.

A schematic design timeline was released by Baltimore County Public Schools on June 30, following a PowerPoint presentation of the design given during a June 9 Baltimore County Board of Education meeting.

The design was provided by GWWO Architects, a firm based in Baltimore.

Construction is to begin October 2015. Both schools are expected to open for the 2016-2017 school year.

"The goal for the new school buildings is to provide a rich, community-centered, collaborative, state-of-the-art 21st-century learning environment for the students of Westowne and Relay," said Pete Dixit, executive director of the school system's Department of Physical Facilities.

Each school will have room for 700 students. Both schools, which currently lack air conditioning, will be air-conditioned, Dixit said.

Other upgrades include better circulation for students, greater energy efficiency and wireless Internet access, Dixit said.

The new schools are part of a county plan to reduce overcrowding in southwest Baltimore County elementary schools. In addition to the two schools, a new 700-seat Catonsville Elementary will be built on the grounds of the Bloomsbury Community Center and a 200-seat addition will be added to Westchester Elementary.

Relay, located at 5885 Selford Road, has a state-rated capacity of 415 with an actual capacity of 527 in the 2013 school year, according to 2014-2023 BCPS projections.

Westowne, located at 401 Harlem Lane, has a state-rated capacity of 480 with an actual capacity of 610.

The anticipated cost of construction for Westowne is approximately $24.7 million while the cost for Relay is approximately $25.9 million, with a total project cost of $34.6 million for each school, Dixit said.

The cost of design for Westowne is $9.9 million, and the cost for Relay is $8.7 million, Dixit said.

Both schools will be built near the old schools on an 18-month project schedule, which is "typical for an elementary school of comparable size," Dixit said.

They will be modeled after the Northwest Elementary School prototype design that was presented during a Sept. 24, 2013, school board meeting, according to the BCPS website.

"We have not received any complaints, and we are very happy with the prototypes," said Kevin Smith, chief administrative and operations officer for BCPS.

Using the design will save the county upward of $570,000, Dixit said.

"While there is consistency between the two school buildings' designs, each school building has been adapted to respond to each individual school's site conditions, such as topography and site orientation, utilities and stormwater management," Dixit said.

Two new ball fields will be added at the new Relay site, while one new field will be added at Westowne, the design shows.

The designs for the new buildings create classroom "neighborhoods," areas comprised of classrooms of children in the same grade. The classroom neighborhoods will share a common area that serves as a collaborative learning space, with the classrooms' proximity to each other allowing for interactive and group-learning, Dixit said.

The buildings will be more energy efficient than the current school buildings to comply with a Maryland mandate that requires new buildings to be sustainable and achieve a minimum of rating of LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council, Dixit said.

LEED is a green building certification program that requires construction projects to meet certain guidelines. There are four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum, with platinum being the highest of the four.

They will be outfitted to achieve the LEED silver rating, Dixit said.

"Both schools will take advantage of the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program that offers rebates for implementation of systems that save energy," Dixit said. "The designs are intended to reduce energy use and operational costs by using sustainable systems."

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