Carroll County Times

Carroll prioritizes Liberty High, Sykesville Middle and 5 elementaries in $43.8M construction budget

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The Carroll County school system plans to request a $43.8 million capital budget for fiscal 2025, facilities planner William Caine told Board of Education members Wednesday. The school board has identified Liberty High, Sykesville Middle, Freedom Elementary, Cranberry Station Elementary, Friendship Valley Elementary, Sandymount Elementary and Taneytown Elementary schools as construction priorities.

The county’s share would be $23.7 million, and the state would contribute $20.1 million.


Maryland only contributes to construction projects and expenditures that are deemed eligible by the Code of Maryland Regulations, Caines said. So, the county will be expected to contribute more than the state in the fiscal 2025 budget because capital spending on security, technology and construction projects where the square footage per student exceeds a ratio specified by a funding formula are among the costs not eligible for state funding.

“There’s a very lengthy section of COMAR that spells out the state capital construction rules and regulations, as far as what’s eligible and what’s not,” Caines said.


Caine said the state’s share of construction costs will fall from its current rate of 59% to 57% in fiscal 2025, and further decrease to 54% in fiscal 2026. Fiscal 2025 begins July 1. Carroll should receive a state share of 53% according to updated calculations, but Maryland won’t modify a share more than 5% percent over two years, Caine said. The state will recalculate in time for fiscal 2027.

According to the proposed budget, the school board will ask the county for $900,000 for security improvements, $1 million for technology improvements and $1.2 million for paving.

“With enrollments going up, it’s possible that our percentage could go back up in the calculations,” Caine said, “so there’s hope. Hopefully in the future it’ll come back to where it was.”

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jon O’Neal said the state will now contribute to design costs, which are often about 10% of the cost of construction.

“[Maryland] does participate in some design work, which historically they never did,” O’Neal said, “so the state taketh away but the state also giveth back.”

Board member Donna Sivigny said she supports allocating $1,271,000 of design funding for a Sykesville Middle School addition and $523,000 of design funding for additions at Freedom Elementary School, including a prekindergarten classroom addition.

“After all the extensive discussions that we’ve had over the last couple of years about redistricting, building additions and what is the best way to go about all that — I think I’m in support of this being the best way forward,” Sivigny said.

The estimated construction costs for kindergarten and prekindergarten classroom additions at Cranberry Station, Friendship Valley, Sandymount and Taneytown elementary schools have increased from last year’s plan based on approved preliminary schematic design concepts, Caine said.


Construction at Cranberry Station is projected to cost about $3.6 million, Sandymount about $4.6 million, Taneytown about $4.4 million, and Friendship Valley is projected at just over $9 million. Projects are contingent on state school construction funding, according to the improvement program, and also use bonds as a funding source.

“The costs have gone up a little bit from the original estimate but that’s pretty typical when you get into the specifics and trying to figure out how the addition would be added,” Caine said.

Previously, construction at Cranberry Station and Sandymount were projected to cost about $2.9 million each, Taneytown was projected to cost about $3.4 million, and Friendship Valley was projected at just over $4.9 million.

The proposed budget includes an additional $755,000 for other prekindergarten additions, as directed by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is a multibillion-dollar public school reform effort entering the second year of its decadelong rollout. It is designed to make Maryland’s schools among the highest performing in the country by providing more time for teachers to plan lessons and develop skills outside the classroom, offering universal prekindergarten for 3-year-olds, and redesigning the public education funding formula, among other initiatives.

The capital budget outline also includes a request for $300,000 to evaluate options for modernizing Liberty High School by performing a feasibility study.


The Capital Improvement Program included with the budget request indicates that Liberty High modernization will likely cost around $143 million, which Sivigny said seems to be a hefty price tag.

The fiscal 2026-2030 Capital Improvement Program request totals just over $358 million, with an anticipated county share of $185 million based on the state share of about $173 million.

Funding for projects included in the capital budget becomes part of the legally adopted budget, but the longer-term improvement program is not legally binding. Current projects are prioritized, followed by projects that affect safety, then projects that replace critical building systems.

The scheduling of school modernizations in this year’s request is based on the 2022 update to the March 2008 Report on Physical and Functional Assessments of Schools Constructed Prior to 1980, which now includes schools built before 1990, according to the discussion item.

Each school receives an annually updated Facilities Condition Index score based on a physical assessment conducted by the company Schooldude. A school’s FCI rating is then combined with the results of a functional assessment conducted by Carroll County Public Schools staff to produce a number designed to comprehensively measure how well a building meets instructional needs, according to the Educational Facilities Master Plan.

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Liberty High School has been identified as the county’s top modernization priority after the Eldersburg school, which opened in 1980, was recently assessed for the first time. O’Neal told county commissioners and school board members in July that Winchester Elementary, Mount Airy Elementary, Freedom Elementary and Sykesville Middle schools are among the top priorities after Liberty, based on poor comprehensive assessment scores. The recently replaced East Middle School was the only building to score worse than Liberty High.


The $400,000 planning and design cost of William Winchester Elementary is higher than the usual expense because the site and study will also evaluate West Middle School, which is also on the list for modernization, Caine told school board members on Wednesday. That project is slated to begin in fiscal 2028.

Board member Steve Whisler expressed concerns about how shifting staff resources to implement Blueprint initiatives will impact space utilization needs for schools.

Modifications to existing structures to accommodate Blueprint’s rollout would come from the local infrastructure capital project, which is funded by school board surplus funds, O’Neal said. Some capital funding and reimagining of spaces may also be used to address Blueprint-related infrastructure needs in the future, he added.

The school board will vote on the capital budget on Oct. 11 at its regular monthly meeting with public participation, beginning at 5 p.m. The school board will meet jointly with the Carroll County Board of Commissioners at 1 p.m. that day.

School board meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the Carroll County Public Schools YouTube channel and viewable on the right side of the Board of Education’s website at, under CETV Livestream. Meetings are also broadcast live throughout the month on Carroll Educational Television, Ch. 21.

Anyone who wishes to participate during the public participation portion of the meeting must fill out an online sign-up form at or call the communications office at 410-751-3020 by 9 p.m., on the Tuesday before a meeting.