Carroll commissioners scrutinize school facilities report

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners received their first briefing on the Carroll County Public Schools' recent facilities study and for the most part, seemed unimpressed.

During a 90-minute meeting on Jan. 8 with the county's Board of Education and officials from MGT of America, the firm that performed the study, commissioners scrutinized figures in the report, such as enrollment projections and the grading scale used to determine which buildings were functional based on condition and space.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild said he has concerns with the school capacity numbers used in the report, but overall believes the report confirms the position taken by himself, Commissioner Dave Roush and Commissioner Robin Frazier.

"There is an opportunity to consolidate and save money," he said.

Frazier said the original intent of the commissioners' inquiry into school utilizations was to see if cost savings opportunities exist, but she didn't see a lot of cost savings opportunities in the report.

"What I'm seeing in this report, doesn't seem to have that goal in mind," she said.

Commissioner Doug Howard said after the meeting that the study's recommendations meant "very little" to him.

"I put more stock in recommendations from the superintendent," he said.

Howard added that commissioners need to hear from the school system on its needs and, more specifically, the state of Charles Carroll Elementary School.

The school system has not taken any action on recommendations in the report, according to Superintendent Steve Guthrie.

He said staff has been studying it since it was received and he plans to bring recommendations based on the report to the Board of Education in February.

Guthrie said the consolidation of schools would result in capital and operational savings, but those empty schools would then be turned over to the commissioners.

No estimate was given on how much it may cost to maintain empty school buildings.

In a county news release sent out hours after the meeting, Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said, "the study was a bunch of hooey which should not have been undertaken in the first instance."

The study cost the school system more than $88,000.

"It merely confirmed what common sense already dictates, having a little excess capacity is not a bad thing, and that the outcry from some of my colleagues is overblown," he said in a statement.

Shoemaker, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting, was referring to comments from Frazier and Rothschild about the need to consolidate schools.

The meeting comes about a month after MGT first presented the results of its six-month countywide school facilities study to the Board of Education.

The Washington-state based consulting firm proposed merging schools, such as Charles Carroll and William Winchester elementary schools, while redistricting throughout the county to address school conditions and usage concerns.

The Board of Education commissioned the study in the spring to look at the most effective and efficient use of school buildings after it was originally assigned to school system staff.

The purpose of the report was to help staff decided whether they should close, combine or restructure schools and programs throughout the county.


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