Winchester Building
Winchester Building (Emily Chappell/STAFF PHOTO)

Carroll County Public Schools had a year filled with action and change. In addition to moving forward with a number of projects, CCPS gained a new superintendent in July, and three new members were elected to the Board of Education in November.

The future of school buildings

In 2018, Carroll County Public Schools brought forward the Redistricting and School Closure Committee — a group made of parents, community stakeholders and CCPS staff — to look at issues primarily surrounding East Middle School, and a path forward. The group met for months throughout the spring and summer before bringing forward a list of possible plans in September.

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But despite the committee’s name, RSCC did not recommend any immediate school closures or redistricting, instead bringing to the table five options, three of which involved East Middle, a school that has been in need of repair for years.

Carroll County school board moves forward with Tech Center plan, East Middle feasibility study

The Carroll County school board moved forward on two key items Wednesday night, voting unanimously to move a schematic design for the Career and Technology Center and to move forward with a feasibility study in relation to the Redistricting and School Closure Committee's report.

The first option brought forward from RSSC was a new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade facility that would replace both William Winchester Elementary and East Middle schools. The second was to fully modernize — meaning a replacement or complete renovation of — East Middle. The third was to retain the existing school facility with limited improvements.

In October, Superintendent Steve Lockard brought forth recommendations — which were approved in November — to immediately commission a feasibility study using one-time fund balance money if necessary. In December, the school board approved spending $60,522 on a feasibility study for a possible East Middle School project. The study will be done by Baltimore architectural firm Hord, Coplan, Macht.

Lockard also recommended that the BOE declare an end to any consideration for additional school closures for at least the first five years of the next enrollment projections report and analysis, unless a school closure is part of a replacement modernization project. The third is to have the school board convene a committee in 2023 to evaluate school boundaries.

Tech Center project

The fall of 2018 also brought discussions and action forward on the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, another project that has been in the works for years.

Carroll County school board gets first look at Tech Center designs, talks possible vote on plan this month

The Carroll Board of Education was presented with three potential plans — and a potential add-on to the third plan — that would add additional space to the Tech Center as well as some renovations that would allow for courses to be brought up to industry standards.

Plan C would cost $59,117,745, which is under the $60 million previously approved for the project by the Board of County Commissioners. This option would come with a 97,542-square-foot addition, plus a renovation of 45,083 square feet. The project would take place from summer 2020 through summer 2023.

The potential $10 million add-on for this plan would include a 98,778-square-foot addition and 76,512 square feet of renovation, a plan that would meet all education specifications, a shorter construction duration and flexibility to address future needs by dealing with the wait list or adding future programs.

SROs and mental health

With the start of the 2018-19 school year also came a new school resource officer program, something that began with a stop-gap program the spring before, and an increased focus on mental health.

Following the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Carroll County Public Schools increased law enforcement presence in schools through a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office.

On March 21, CCPS and the Sheriff’s Office placed deputies in various schools throughout the county. In the final hours of the 2018 Maryland legislative session, the General Assembly passed the Maryland Safe to Learn Act. In August, the school board signed a memorandum of understanding with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, solidifying the SRO program.

Here's what you need to know about Carroll resource officers program before the start of school

The 2018-19 school year will be the first to start with SROs in Carroll County Public Schools.

The plan called for an SRO in every high school in Carroll. When school began, there was a dedicated SRO in three high schools, and in the remaining high schools, deputies were to rotate on an overtime basis until those full-time SRO positions were filled. As of mid-December, Duane Williams, supervisor of school security and emergency management for CCPS, said via email that there are now four deputies and two supervisors permanently assigned as SROs.

Elementary and middle schools would continue to receive patrols and coverage under the adopt a school program, which fell under the “plan for adequate law enforcement coverage” as outlined in the law.

The Safe to Learn Act also had a strong mental health component.

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In November, the BOE approved the appointment of a mental health coordinator, a position that came out of the law, and will be funded through grants from the state in its first year. The school board unanimously approved the appointment of Amy Jagoda, a 12-month school psychologist in CCPS, to the position.

Carroll school board gets first look at budget, talks possible positions to help with mental health concerns

The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education — with three new members — got its first look at the Fiscal Year 2020 budget Wednesday, which included discussions around needed mental health-related positions.

Jagoda said through the position, she will not only work with other mental health providers in the schools, but also with outside agencies. Her new job will coordinate all of the links they have in place now and strengthen them. Another portion of her job will be threat assessment, Jagoda previously said, and there will be a lot of work to align the current school policy with that of the Maryland State Department of Education.

And in a budget work session in December, the school board, with three new members — Patricia Ann Dorsey, Tara Battaglia and Kenny Kiler — discussed the possibility of asking for funding more positions, some of which to help bolster mental health resources in CCPS.

Students, leaders take action

This year also brought activism and change in the school system, from students participating in national walkouts and former Superintendent Stephen Guthrie banning the Confederate flag and other symbols of hate.

On March 14, CCPS students joined others around the nation to participate in a National School Walkout, an event that came after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

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CCPS officials allowed students to participate in a modified version of the walkout, but not let students leave their buildings, citing safety concerns. The focus of the CCPS walkouts were to be about remembering the victims, and not creating something political.

In January, Guthrie started discussions about banning the flag, and in February, he took action to do so, banning the rebel flag, swastikas and other symbols of hate via the school system’s dress code.

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