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Our View: Feeling cautious but hopeful about new proposal for former North Carroll High School

What to do with North Carroll High School?

This question has been an enduring and painful one since Carroll County Public Schools closed it and two others at the end of the 2015-16 school year due to declining enrollment. Anyone from the Hampstead and Manchester areas will likely tell you this school was not just a school, but a centerpiece of the community. And that community hasn’t been quite the same since the school closed.

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The facility has since been used for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy and by the Carroll County Recreation Council; we’re glad that the grounds of the former school have not sat in total neglect, but we’re certain there are better uses that ought to be considered. And the financial burden it has placed on the county needs to be addressed sooner or later.

We hope to see a better fate for the property and the people who yearn for it to be the community hub it once was. This past week offered a glimmer of hope that this might be possible.

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According to the Board of County Commissioners’ June 25 meeting agenda, a potential buyer, Baltimore-based Capital Sports Group, is interested in turning the facility into a sports complex that would include outdoor turf fields. A price for the property was not listed on the agenda.

County spokesperson Chris Winebrenner told us Wednesday that this discussion was rescheduled, to a future meeting that has yet to be determined, “In order to provide the most thorough presentation regarding a possible contract.” That likely won’t be until after the Fourth of July holiday weekend, as the commissioners have canceled their weekly meeting for July 2. It does take some air out of the balloon, but it’s just as well — if it takes a few more weeks before a complete, well-though-out proposal sees the light of day, so be it.

It’s not the first time that the addition of turf fields at the site has been discussed, but make no mistake — the addition of outdoor turf fields would be no small thing. Carroll County is noticeably lacking in them, often leading athletics programs to send athletes around the state for competitions. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to offer the same experience but with a fraction of the travel time? Brand-new turf fields in Hampstead might even be able to allow tournaments and other events to be hosted in Carroll, likely providing a economic boost for nearby businesses.

We put heavy emphasis on the tentative nature of this proposal. The commissioner haven’t yet heard details, and it’s unclear how they might feel about the details on an individual basis. It’s encouraging that most of them — as well as Hampstead’s mayor — have already signaled they are open to the concept. Commissioner Richard Weaver, who represents the district where the property is located, said that thus far he has not seen a downside to the proposal.

It’s possible that a sale could be in the cards, though it’s important to note that there are many unanswered questions and no deal should be reached in haste.

We thought Commissioner Ed Rothstein summed up the situation well: “There’s a relationship of North Carroll High School with the community of Hampstead that should never be lost,” he said. “I am in support of moving forward with the sale of North Carroll as long as it’s the appropriate sale with everyone on board.” We concur.

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