By Colin Campbell, The Baltimore Sun
2:53 PM EDT, July 11, 2014
A Baltimore County historical commission delayed a decision Thursday that would push forward a Baltimore County public school plan to renovate and reuse Loch Raven Elementary School.
More than a dozen community members attended the commission's meeting and voiced opposition to the school system's plan, saying the building's current use as a community center fits the neighborhood's needs.
Architects for the school system argued that their $35 million plan — which would demolish all of a 1970 portion and part of a 1949 addition to the 1947 building — would return the school to its original use and allow it to continue to serve as a focal point for the Loch Raven Village neighborhood.
Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission members said they would be OK with removing the 1970 portion to allow more focus on the 1940s parts. But they questioned whether the architects had considered other blueprints that would leave the 1949 addition untouched. Members voted to table the discussion until a special meeting to be held in the next few weeks. Architects will then be asked to prove that shifting the building to preserve the 1949 addition isn't possible.
The building, which hasn't housed students since 1982, was designated a historical landmark in 2007. Neighbors expressed concerns about the school system's plans — echoing the pleas of local elected officials, who wrote to schools Superintendent Dallas Dance in April asking him to preserve the structure.
Jed McCormick, a Loch Raven resident speaking on behalf of more than 300 neighbors who signed a petition against the plan, argued that the building was intended to serve the neighborhood.
"No loss is a victory," McCormick said. "We live another day, and we can come back now that we know what this committee focuses on.
"We're saying leave the structure as is — no additions."
Central to the debate is the county schools' goal to close Halstead Academy before the 2016-2017 school year and bus those students into the new school in Loch Raven Village.
Another neighbor, Natalie Russell, said she wanted to know how the building would continue to serve as a community recreational center if a school were located inside.
The architects also proposed a new community center on the northwest side of the school, a plan McCormick said hadn't been shared with the neighborhood. After discussion, the commission tabled a decision on the proposed center as well.
An earlier version of thie article said the county school system plans to demolish Halstead Academy. No decision has been made about what will happen to the building. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
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