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East Middle School, built in 1936, was the subject of a feasibility study called for by the Board of Education.
East Middle School, built in 1936, was the subject of a feasibility study called for by the Board of Education. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

The public is invited to comment on three major updates for Carroll County Public Schools facilities at a public hearing Thursday, May 23.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Charles Ecker Board Room, 125 North Court Street, Westminster, the Board of Education will take input about the renovation/addition of the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, the feasibility study for East Middle School and the the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP). The comments will be brought to the next Board of Education meeting, scheduled for June 12.

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For those who can’t attend, comments and suggestions may be submitted online at feedback.carrollk12.org or by mail to the Superintendent’s Office, Carroll County Public Schools, 125 North Court Street, Westminster, MD 21157.

Updates on Carroll County Career and Technology Center renovation plan presented to school board

During their work session, the Carroll County Board of Education heard an update on the project to renovate and add onto the Career and Technology Center.

The board heard presentations on all of these items at a recent work session. To view video of the session, visit www.carrollk12.org/videos. The documents used in the presentation are also available at www.carrollk12.org/admin/facilities/planning/Documents.

East Middle School feasibility study

At the work session, the BOE heard the findings of the East Middle School Feasibility Study.

Options for that school population range from building a new, more accessible addition onto the existing school to building an entirely new middle or k-8 school. The study was designed to give the school system a sense of direction as they look to include the project in the EFMP, which will guide its direction.

For the board members, the work session was a time to look at the options without having to vote or move on anything right away, Superintendent Steve Lockard said at the meeting. Jeff Hagan, who focuses on Maryland schools architecture firm Hord Coplan Macht, led the presentation.

The Redistricting and School Closure Committee brought forth five different options for the aging school, and the Board voted to fund the feasibility study to provide technical analysis of the options.

Carroll County school board, commissioner members clash over possible East Middle School project

Despite the Board of Education moving forward this week with recommendations for a feasibility study to help find a solution to the East Middle School dilemma, some members of the school board and Board of County Commissioners continue to disagree about a path forward.

The first option was a renovation/addition to the existing East Middle School building. The other options include analysis of both the current East Middle School site and the Friendship Valley Elementary School site and a study of a middle school model and a K-8 school model to combine East Middle School and William Winchester Elementary School, according to the published study.

The numbers were only for comparison, Hagan cautioned. Budget figures for construction projects become more refined and representative as projects go forward.

A slide from the presentation on the East Middle School Feasibility Study gives a summary of pros and cons for five options.
A slide from the presentation on the East Middle School Feasibility Study gives a summary of pros and cons for five options. (Courtesy Photo / Carroll County Public Schools)

The addition/renovation, though it would preserve historic elements of the school, was the longest construction and costliest option for a building housing only middle school students, at an estimated $60,326,382. It would cause the least disruption to the site of the school, originally constructed in 1936. The school is constructed in the Art Deco style and will require discussion with the Maryland Historic Trust before moving forward.

An addition, added in the 1950s, does not align with that building and creates accessibility problems. The project would remove that addition and build a new one. The school’s BEST program, which can feel isolated in a disconnected annex building, would now be housed with the rest of the school. This plan creates the most disruption to the occupants of the school and is the least energy efficient, according to the study.

Building a new middle school on that site would be more energy efficient and phasing would be cheaper because the old building could remain operational during parts of construction at a cost of $59,958,175. However, the new bus loop could not be constructed until the old building is demolished.

A k-8 building on the site would share many of the energy and functional optimization benefits of the previous option. But it is the overall longest project duration and the most expensive plan at $97,330,490. The study predicted that there would be site problems, including limited space for playgrounds and playing fields and requirements for more stormwater management.

The cheapest and quickest option would be building a new middle school on the Friendship Valley Elementary School site, at an estimated cost of $55,992,239. Middle school students could remain at East Middle School during construction of the new facility and the study predicted minimal impact on the Friendship Valley Elementary School students during construction.

With both options on this site, the East Middle School building would be left vacant after the completion of the project. With both k-8 options, redistricting would be needed for Westminster Area elementary schools, and the William Winchester Elementary building would be left vacant. If a new k-8 building is constructed at Friendship Valley, both East Middle and William Winchester Elementary would be left vacant.

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That option is the second-most costly at $91,664,728. It would also mean permanent loss of Recreation & Parks playfields. With so much housed on this site — one middle and two elementary schools plus two BEST programs — there will be a noticeable increase in traffic and road improvements may be required. There is limited area for the required playfields, stormwater management and reforestation.

The full study as well as a summary presentation is available through the CCPS website at www.carrollk12.org/admin/facilities/planning/Documents.

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