An unanticipated mass of rock discovered at the construction site of East Middle School on Longwell Avenue in Westminster is causing delays in building a bus loop and parking lot at the new school, according to Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia McCabe.
McCabe told the Board of Education Wednesday night that the rock was discovered after the old school building was demolished earlier this fall. The rock must be removed before the bus loop and parking lot can be constructed on the grounds where the old building once stood.
“After a fairly smooth process that allowed us to get the new East Middle School facility opened in time for the school year, we subsequently encountered our first significant issue on the site,” McCabe said.
The project manager decided blasting would be the best way to proceed, but the obstacle remains after a week and a half of removal work, McCabe said. McCabe anticipates the project exceeding its original budget, due to the additional rock removal work, and said staff will work out a comprehensive plan with the construction manager in the next two weeks and present it to her for consideration.
“These things happen, and I’m sure we will get through this,” " Board of Education President Marsha Herbert said.
East Middle School serves 790 students, including 40 students in the Behavioral Educational Support Team program.
The school system began construction on the East Middle School replacement project in November 2021.
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The former school building was 120,400 square feet and was constructed in 1936. It served for 35 years as Westminster High School, then nearly 50 years as a middle school, until it was closed in June. It received additions in 1941, 1950 and 1964, and it was last renovated in 1976.
It was replaced by a new three-level 126,000 square-foot building that opened for students in September.
In May 2019, Westminster officials and community members urged the school board to replace East Middle School but keep it in the same area. Westminster Common Council member Tony Chiavacci argued at the time that Westminster is the largest and most diverse city in the county and East Middle School serves the largest population of students with special needs, English Learners and minority students. Chiavacci said it is important to keep the school where it is within easy access to services in the city such as the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, the Family Fitness Center and Westminster Skate Park.
The school board first approved construction of the new campus on Longwell Avenue in December 2019; the project had a $60 million budget at that time. Costs increased to $65.9 million by the time the new building was complete.