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Editorial: With time nearing to act on East Middle, time to talk about it is tonight

When the Redistricting and School Closure Committee, commissioned by Carroll County Public Schools, came to the conclusion after months of discussion and analysis that East Middle School in Westminster is an “unavoidable driver of all planning concerns,” it was not exactly a surprise.

Knowing that aging East Middle is the key to all things, including future countywide redistricting, is one thing. Knowing what to do about it is another. So CCPS commissioned a feasibility study, enlisting school personnel, architects, engineers and others to assess the condition of the existing building and site, offer recommendations for improvements or replacement of current facilities, and present five options for consideration by the Board of Education. That study and those recommendations were presented at a BOE work session last week.

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The public is invited to comment on the study and its recommendations tonight at 6:30 at the Charles Ecker Board Room, 125 N. Court Street, Westminster. Comments will also be taken on the Carroll County Career and Technology Center renovation/addition and the Educational Facilities Master Plan. While the latter two topics are worthy of comment, of course, it’s the ongoing issue of what to do about East Middle that we hope brings out a significant number of people to voice their opinions and expertise and get on the record the positives and negatives of each recommendation. The comments will be brought to the next Board of Education meeting, June 12.

East Middle, constructed in 1936 as Westminster High School with additions and renovations along the way, has an enrollment of just over 700 students and is considered to be the school in the worst condition and most in need of facility improvements, with William Winchester Elementary School in Westminster not far behind. The mere discussion of what to do about East Middle has caused consternation to all involved and arguments have erupted between the BOE and the county commissioners. But considering all future plans are dependent on East Middle and some $100,000 was spent on this study, the time for action is close.

The feasibility study options ranged from building a new addition onto the existing school to building an entirely new middle school on that site or constructing a kindergarten through eighth grade school — to facilitate the closing of William Winchester — either on the current site or on the campus of Friendship Valley Elementary. All options have a plan to allow students to remain on-site during construction and, as was discussed at the workshop and is noted throughout the study, each option has pluses and minuses, ranging from cost to duration of construction to potential impact on infrastructure to preserving historic elements of the school to increasing energy efficiency to disruption of current students.

So, any thoughts? Does one option stand out over the others? Is there something simple everyone is missing? Let the key players in this important decision know tonight.

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