Gina Koger attended the Carroll County Public Schools Educational Facilities Master Plan public meeting Thursday to advocate for her 4-year-old son, Wyatt, who has congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
He is not yet in the school system, but Koger knew it was important to speak up for him early since building projects take many years to complete.
"I know money's tight but I'm just thinking of my child," she said. "I don't want anything to make him feel different."
Koger, of Westminster, discussed with school officials Thursday evening if East Middle School was on the list of schools to be modernized. The purpose of the master plan is to identify the present and future facility needs of Carroll County Public Schools and the meeting was an opportunity to solicit comments from local residents.
Koger said she plans to do anything she can to make sure the building is a priority to become Americans with Disabilities Act accessible. Her son has gone through many surgeries, requires a feeding tube and wears oxygen when he sleeps, but does not have cognitive impairments.
Wyatt will first attend William Winchester Elementary and is then districted to go to East Middle School. Since the middle school is not ADA accessible, Wyatt would instead have to take a bus to a different school, separating him from his older sister and neighborhood friends, she said.
"I think it would not be in the best interest of his social well-being," Koger said.
Facilities Planner Bill Caine said the school is fourth on the list of modernization priorities, under Charles Carroll Elementary, the Carroll County Career and Technology Center replacement school and William Winchester Elementary. The school was last renovated before the ADA requirements were passed.
While they are listed on the plan, the projects don't always occur when they are scheduled, Caine said. Sometimes it's many years after that.
"We're reliant on the county and the state to fund our plan," he said.
Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jonathan O'Neal said the school system is in the process of analyzing all aspects of building needs with a facility utilization study.
"We're in the process of trying to figure out as a county - where do our priorities lie?" he said.
The intention of this study is to create optimal student achievement by aligning capital resources with the instructional program, all within available financial resources. The study will be completed by December and its results will influence future master plan documents.
The study will look at things such as the education impacts of buildings, addressing the concerns of parents such as Koger, but the school system is at the mercy of funding availability, O'Neal said.
A report of its findings will be given to the Board of Education and the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, he said. There will also be mid-way reports and input requested from the public before the study is complete, he said.
Proposed 2012-2021 Educational Facilities Master Plan
The Carroll County Board of Education heard the plan presentation May 9.
The 10-year document, which is updated annually, analyzes four different needs categories: capacity, modernization, instructional program and capital renewal. This plan addresses the need to provide capacity for projected student enrollments, the need to maintain and repair existing school buildings, and the need to provide a learning environment that meets the current instructional program of the school system.
The building use percentages at all grade levels were compared against the board policy to determine if each one is adequate, inadequate or approaching inadequate, Caine said. The only concerns addressed in the plan were William Winchester Elementary, which could have fluctuating enrollment that makes it inadequate, and Liberty High School, which will be monitored because it is approaching inadequate, he said.
Different buildings are listed in priority order for modernizations because they are older schools that need to be brought up to current standards, Caine said.
Schools are built to house instructional programs and when the programs change, there is sometimes a need to make improvements or changes to existing facilities. Examples of recent changes include adjusting elementary schools to accommodate full-day kindergarten and building walls to separate open-concept classrooms.
There are two systems that typically need to be replaced a couple of times during the life of a school and are critical needs: roof and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Currently, 17 out of 43 buildings are more than 20 years old, which makes about 40 percent of school system roofs that are past their estimated useful life. The HVAC system also typically has a 20-year lifespan because energy efficiencies change.
Comments and suggestions may be submitted online at feedback.carrollk12.org or by mail to the Superintendent's Office, Carroll County Public Schools, 125 N. Court St., Westminster, MD 21157.
The Board of Education is scheduled to approve the plan at its 5 p.m. June 13 meeting.