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East Middle School replacement project moving forward as Carroll County school board approves schematic plans

East Middle School.
East Middle School. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

The East Middle School replacement project has an official design, and construction is set to begin next summer on a new building and campus area for the historic site.

The Carroll County Board of Education voted unanimously during its Sept. 9 meeting to approve the schematic plan, and Superintendent Steve Lockard called the schematics the “first formal step for board approval in the design process.”

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East Middle, in Westminster, was considered for permanent closure by the board before Charles Carroll Elementary, New Windsor Middle, and North Carroll High schools were shut down after the 2015-16 school year. Opened in 1936, the current building served as Westminster High School for some 35 years and has been a middle school for nearly 50 years.

Now it’s set to be re-imagined thanks to a project led by a design team and architect Jeff Hagan of Baltimore-based Hord Coplan Macht, Inc.

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With the schematic design approved, the replacement project moves on to design development plans for the school board’s approval in November. Construction documents should be presented in February 2021, and bidding is slated to begin in early March.

Construction is scheduled to start next summer, with hopes of having occupancy in August 2023.

“It’s not easy ... these milestone dates are very close together,” said Ray Prokop, CCPS facilities management director, during the board meeting. “There’s quite a bit of work that still has to be done by Jeff and his crew for us to be able to have a project come next summer.”

More than 120,000 square feet of current building space is set to be demolished, and a new three-level site will be developed that includes close to 126,000 square feet, according to the schematic design plans. Once the new building is constructed, Hagan said the existing building will be demolished and the rest of that site will be developed to complete the project.

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The proposed schematic site plan for the East Middle School Replacement Project was shown at the Carroll County Board of Education meeting Sept. 9, 2020.
The proposed schematic site plan for the East Middle School Replacement Project was shown at the Carroll County Board of Education meeting Sept. 9, 2020. (Screenshot)

Hagan’s presentation to the board included visuals of how the schematics came together virtually since in-person meetings didn’t take place amid the coronavirus pandemic. Planning and design teams discussed hopes and concerns for the future, and Hagan laid them out.

Chief among them were the integration of the Behavioral Education Support Team students with the regular education students; middle-school grades being separated into localized levels and teams; and improved traffic flow for vehicles and pedestrians.

Hagan said Tuc Road will be used for buses, which will line up in front of the building. BEST program buses can be separate from other buses, Hagan said. North Street will be used for an adult parking loop and student pick-up and drop-off. That area will also serve as access for after-school activities, according to the plans.

“We think we’ve created some good separation there between car traffic and bus traffic,” Hagan said during his presentation.

Marsha Herbert, school board vice president, said she was glad to see the divide between buses and cars. Herbert also said she has heard from the public about trying to incorporate the current building’s facade and marble stairs as way to honor the past.

Hagan said those things will be points of interest as part of the project’s next phase in November.

“Good, because my mother graduated from there. I graduated from there,” Herbert said. “I know a lot of people had asked me that, ‘What are we doing?’ ”

The project’s budget is $59,958,000, and Hagan showed the schematic design estimated budget at $59,866,478. Donna Sivigny, school board president, said she was pleased the money figures are so similar, and that indicated the project was moving along the right path.

Sivigny and fellow board member Patricia Dorsey said it’s exciting to see East Middle’s replacement plans coming into view.

“This is something that has the blood, sweat, and tears of everybody that is involved with this project, and that’s what I enjoy,” Hagan said. “I love seeing that product of all those ideas generated.”

Meeting notes

― Custodial and Maintenance Personnel Recognition Day is Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Lockard praised those employees who help keep Carroll County schools running smoothly. Lockard said they “do whatever it takes to keep our buildings cleaned and well-maintained, to make our schools safe and comfortable places to teach and learn.”

“Their work is vital as always, but certainly moving forward as our staff are returning to our buildings and as we prepare, ultimately, to reopen schools to students,” Lockard said.

― Westminster High School student Savannah Kunkel, who is in the masonry program at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, recently received the Mortar Net Solutions Mason Apprentice Scholarship. Kunkel’s work was recognized by instructor Mike Campanile, who nominated her for the award. She received a $350 check toward her education and a tool bag filled with $1,000 worth of tools.

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