Carroll school renovation hinges on state funds Administrators call work at Francis Scott Key feasible if done piecemeal


How do you renovate a whole school without giving students the year off?

Section by section.

"We'll do it almost like surgery," said George Phillips, principal at Francis Scott Key High School, which is scheduled to begin a $16 million renovation and expansion in July.

The project is to be complete by January 2000.

But the renovation might have to be delayed until it can be paid for. So far, state officials who screen capital budget requests are saying they can afford to give only $1 million toward the project, and that would change the schedule.

"I've asked [facilities supervisor Lester] Surber to work with the engineers, the architect and our staff to make some contingency plans," said Vernon Smith, director of school support services for Carroll County schools.

Smith said the project might be too complicated to bid and carry out in pieces if state money trickles in. However, Carroll school officials have asked the state's InterAgency Committee for Public School Construction to reconsider its preliminary decision. They also have asked that if the state gives less than the $6.7 million requested, the school get at least $3 million, enough to start the first phase.

If the committee refuses, the schools can appeal to the state Board of Public Works next month.

Phillips and the community have been lobbying for the renovation for more than five years, but in the process of getting state construction money, outdated schools didn't hold as high a priority as those that are crowded.

This year, however, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced a plan to update older schools. In April, Key got approval to plan its renovation, with $6.7 million in construction money that was expected to come from the state in July. The county would provide up to $9.2 million more toward the project and the construction of a wastewater treatment plant.

In the meantime, Key has grown to its capacity with 997 students, and is expected to reach 1,200 students in the 1999-2000 school year. The renovated and expanded school will open at capacity, Phillips said.

In the past, Carroll schools have moved students into portables or an adjacent school during whole-school renovations, such as at Taneytown, Sandymount and Mechanicsville elementary schools.

For this project, Phillips said, one suggestion was to move ninth-graders to Northwest Middle School during the construction. But the decision is to keep the student body and academic program intact, even as the ceilings and walls are being torn out.

"We're looking at this as home improvement, and everyone knows home improvement is a pain," Phillips said. "It's dirty, it's noisy, and it's inconvenient. But we're going to try to make it as clean, as quiet and as convenient as it can be."

Some classes will have to move from year to year, letting construction crews tackle one section of the building, then changing places with students and teachers when work begins on another section.

One of the biggest inconveniences students will encounter is fewer parking spots during at least the 1998-1999 school year.

The student parking lot is on the same side of the school as the construction site. The limited spaces are assigned only to juniors and seniors who can make a case for one: Phillips requires them to fill out a form with the reason -- such as after-school job or sports. They have to say what their work or practice days and hours are. If they work only two days a week, they can park only two days a week.

"Parking will be a problem," he said. "Student parking will be cut in half. But there will be plenty of parking when we're done."

The floor plan of the project is blocked out in blue, pink and goldenrod in Phillips' office, with each color representing a yearlong phase.

The first phase will be to start the two-story addition to the southwest side of the building. That will include renovating the 10 classrooms adjacent to the addition. Those classes are now mostly science and vocational-technical labs and rooms. They will move for one year to what now is the math-English-social studies wing. Students in that wing will be relocated.

Science labs will be held in rooms adjacent to restrooms, so that plumbing can easily be extended to provide running water.

Phillips said he hopes to get at least one portable building with two classrooms, and to turn a small section of the auxiliary gymnasium into four temporary classrooms.

The greenhouse, now where the addition will be built, will be dismantled and moved, Phillips said.

One casualty is the photography class. It won't be taught for a year. The darkroom will be among the section to be renovated first, and it won't be worthwhile to build a darkroom for the year of the relocation, Phillips said. The payoff will be that when the renovation is complete, the photography department will use digital- processing equipment.

Also during this phase, construction crews will build a wastewater treatment plant for the school.

During the summer, crews will rebuild the office and health suites, refinish the main gym floor, repair bleachers and work on the ventilation system.

If everything goes smoothly, the new section and adjacent renovation will open by fall of 1998 with 33 classrooms or labs and a new media center and music rooms. Science will move back to its renovated quarters, and it will be time for phase two: the math-English-social studies courses will move out of their wing while it is renovated.

In the fall of 1999, that section will be complete and the bulk of the work done. For the 1999-2000 school year, the less extensive phase three work will include the kitchen, cafeteria, gymnasium, showers and locker rooms and auditorium. The renovation of the kitchen will mean that the school could be without one for two to six months, starting in the fall of 1999, Phillips said. The school will explore bringing in food from another school during renovation.

Pub Date: 12/27/96

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