Facilities study recommends merging Carroll schools, redistricting

Charles Carroll and William Winchester elementary schools could merge into one school located between the two existing schools if the Carroll County Board of Education follows recommendations from the firm it hired to perform a comprehensive facilities study.

MGT of America, based in Washington state, presented its recommendations to the Board of Education Wednesday following a six-month countywide facilities study, which cost the school system more than $88,000.

MGT officials highlighted the condition of Charles Carroll, the low enrollment at Manchester Valley and North Carroll high schools, and the current "spaghetti map" of feeder patterns as issues to consider as the school system contemplates its facilities option.

Senior Partner Edward Humble said MGT's recommended attendance boundaries will seem radical to those affected, but overall, the firm's recommendations "tweak" the existing attendance boundaries and address the condition of Charles Carroll.

"It it affects you personally, it's a big deal," he said.

In addition to combining Charles Carroll and William Winchester in a new location, MGT has proposed some redistricting, including:

• Aligning the North Carroll High School boundary with the current Shiloh Middle School boundary

• Aligning the Manchester Valley High School boundary with North Carroll Middle Boundary while also expanding it into the current East Middle, William Winchester, and Charles Carroll zone to increase Manchester Valley feeder pattern enrollments and decrease the Winters Mill High School feeder enrollments

• Adjust the boundaries among Eldersburg, Freedom, and Piney Ridge elementary schools to reduce enrollment at Piney Ridge

Humble said that MGT viewed Piney Ridge's overcapacity issues as a "long-term problem," which is why they made the recommendation.

"You need to ask yourself that question 'Is it worth it?'" he said. "Because the downside is you're going to move some people around."

MGT has also recommended that the school system begin planning for a new East Middle, preferably to be on the same site as the new Charles Carroll/William Winchester Elementary School, and for the replacement of West Middle School.

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 is to help staff decided whether they should close, combine or restructure schools and programs throughout the county.

School board members said they were pleased with the report, but admitted it was a lot of information to consider after just seeing the report for the first time.

"It's just a lot of information to digest," board member Barbara Shreeve said. "I would say for us some radical changes, some heavy things to think about."

The Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners are scheduled to meet with MGT officials in January as a follow-up to Wednesday's presentation.

At that meeting, it is expected that board members will give school officials some direction on what options to pursue.

Superintendent Steve Guthrie said if the board elects to pursue redistricting the board would need to set a time frame for the process to begin and if it elects to pursue construction of a new school that would be approved through the Education Facilities Master Plan.

MGT officials visited every county school, considered school capacity, enrollment projections, school conditions and held four community charrettes to solicit community input for the study.

While the school system has projected that enrollment will eventually level off over the next 10 years, MGT projects that school system enrollment will continue to steadily decline through 2022-23.

MGT has also proposed a handful of supporting recommendations, including:

• Monitor utilization rates annually and adjust attendance boundaries as necessary.

• Coordinate attendance boundary adjustments to improve feeder patterns.

• Reduce number of relocatable classrooms in accordance with the "Relocatable Utilization Plan 2012."

• Determine future delivery model of Career and Technology programs. Plan for modernization of Career and Technology Center/Facilities.

Humble said he couldn't get a good handle on the school system's future plans for its career and technology programs, whether it's moving programs into schools or centralizing all of the programs.

"You've got a good program going now and there are some kids doing some exciting things there," he said. "You really need to determine what the delivery model is and then plan for improvement to that facility."

The full MGT report is expected to be posted here on Thursday.

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