Calvert Planners Favor New High School

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Calvert High School would be replaced with a $57 million building, according to a plan that public school officials presented to Calvert County commissioners this week.

The current building on Dares Beach Road in Prince Frederick, dedicated in 1963, is the oldest of Calvert's four public high schools. County school officials had been planning to renovate the existing structure, but those plans recently were scrapped, George R. Leah Jr., director of school construction for Calvert public schools, told the commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday.

"Many people will be hearing this for the first time and won't have the slightest clue what we are talking about," said Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large), who was surprised to hear of the change in plans.

The school system was going to request funds for the estimated $50 million renovation project beginning with the fiscal 2009 budget, but officials decided to delay the project because of continuing financial pressures at the state and county levels.

Officials then reviewed an architect's feasibility study and decided to replace the school, Leah said.

The current building's "architecture wasn't lending itself to modern improvements," he said. The school system will ask for $21.2 million toward new construction and other costs in the fiscal 2010 budget cycle, he said. "For the dollar, we'd do much better to demolish the building," he told the commissioners.

The project is planned to be built in phases, with the existing building being demolished incrementally as sections of the new building are completed. Leah said students will continue attending classes at the old facility during the anticipated 51-month construction process, set to begin in fiscal 2010.

"We'll have the opportunity to discuss it in more detail when it comes back in [2010] and future years," said County Commissioners President Wilson H. Parran (D-Huntingtown), who requested further work sessions on the project.

The school system will be conducting a similar feasibility study on the future of the Northern High School building, Leah said.

At Tuesday's meeting, the county commissioners approved a letter to the state's school construction fund supporting the Calvert school system's $21.5 million fiscal 2009 capital program, which requests nearly $13 million in state funding for building projects.

The plan for the coming fiscal year includes money for part of the design and construction costs to replace Calvert Middle School, which was built in 1941. The structure at Route 4 and Dares Beach Road is the county's oldest school. The new one will be on the Calvert High campus.

Two projects, for a new air-conditioning chiller component for Windy Hill Elementary School and a new fire alarm at Huntingtown Elementary, were placed in the fiscal 2009 plan. A new roof for Beach Elementary and upgrades to mechanical and fire systems at Mutual Elementary also are in the plan.

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