The Carroll County Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday to seek bids for architectural and engineering studies that would determine if it’s feasible to build additions at Freedom Elementary and Sykesville Middle schools.
School board President Ken Kiler said the board “was afraid of redistricting” and “kicked the can down the road” by deciding to conduct the studies rather than make a decision about options presented by the Southern Area Redistricting Committee late last month. The committee was formed in January to make recommendations to the school board about balancing enrollment and school capacity for all schools in the southern region of the county.
On Aug. 31 the committee published an 84-page report that included three options for redistricting between 697 and 1,095 students. Some options included longer bus rides and school start time changes for many students.
Kiler said he still believed the studies need to be done.
“I don’t feel comfortable putting kids on a bus for another 30 minutes without considering what can be done with the facilities we have,” he said. “Freedom needs it more, but Sykesville still does have a portable, and whether it’s another classroom or office they’re using them, and I just feel like we got to do it.”
Following discussion of the committee’s report at a Sept. 7 work session, the school board decided it was better to move more slowly rather than make a redistricting recommendation. The board also canceled a Sept. 21 public hearing on the school redistricting options.
The first step in the process will be to request bids from companies to complete the studies. CCPS staff estimated the cost for each study would be $100,000. Once bids are received, CCPS staff will bring a recommendation to the board on which ones to award and another vote will occur.
If approved, results of the feasibility studies are anticipated next spring, according to CCPS Superintendent Cynthia McCabe.
Board member Donna Sivigny said commissioning the studies is a good idea.
“I’m absolutely convinced about Freedom, I’m not quite there for Sykesville,” she said, adding that Freedom has been over capacity for a long time.
“... When we were [at Freedom] to tour, it was clear they are literally using every single space that they possibly have, plus six portables,” she said. “I think it absolutely makes sense to do the feasibility for Freedom ... it’s a very small site. It’s one of our smallest sites across the county.”
Freedom sits on 9.64 acres and was built in 1955. Additions were built in 1963, 1964, 1975 and 2009. About 620 students are enrolled there.
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“Sykesville Middle is at the point where there is one classroom outside, the rest is office buildings,” Sivigny said, about the portable classrooms located at the school.
“Over the next couple of years their enrollment is expected to go down for a couple of years and then pop up. ... I’m not sure I’m all in for spending the additional $100,000 for a feasibility study for Sykesville, but Freedom is necessary.”
Sykesville Middle is on 17.6 acres and was built in 1932. Additions were built in 1949, 1957, 1984 and 2000. The middle school has about 750 students enrolled.