The Washington County Board of Education has approved a facilities master plan that lists replacement of Sharpsburg Elementary School as the board’s third highest school project priority.
The 2012 Educational Facilities Master Plan approved Tuesday by a 5-2 board vote lists the Sharpsburg project behind the replacements of Bester Elementary, as well as Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools with a new “West City” Elementary school.
Board members Donna Brightman and Karen Harshman voted against the plan.
Brightman expressed concerns before the vote, among them that replacing Sharpsburg Elementary was added to this year’s proposed master plan without being vetted by the board’s facilities committee, which she chairs.
Brightman said she’s “never felt the board has owned the process as much as it has or should have” when it comes to setting school building and renovation priorities.
She talked about getting more response from the community, noting there was low turnout at two information meetings held last week about the proposed closing of Winter Street and Conococheague elementary schools.
A resident approached her during one of those meetings, asking where a copy of the facilities master plan could be found, and Brightman told the person it would be online. Then she was informed it was not online.
School system spokesman Richard Wright said the previous year’s facilities master plan was online, and that the new one would replace it after it was approved by the school board.
A copy of the proposed priorities has been available at the school system’s website through its BoardDocs function, which provides documents related to school board meeting subjects.
Brightman said she hasn’t heard a robust discussion about how education could be delivered differently in the future, and how facilities would fit into that model.
“I think we’re missing an opportunity if we just continue business as usual on our facilities without having that discussion,” Brightman said.
After the meeting, Harshman said she voted against the master plan because she said she wanted to wait to hear what people had to say about Winter Street and Conococheague.
Harshman said she was concerned about the proposed closing of those two schools.
Board member Paul Bailey said he was concerned the plan didn’t call for improving E. Russell Hicks Middle School until 2023.
Hicks Middle was built in 1967, according to a school system fact sheet.
Priority list of improvements needed
The priority list of facility needs approved Tuesday by the Washington County Board of Education and their scheduled completion dates are:
- Replace Bester Elementary School, August 2014
- Build new “West City” elementary, August 2016
- Replace Sharpsburg Elementary, August 2017
- Build an “East City” high school, August 2021
- Modernize Boonsboro High, August 2022
- Modernize Fountaindale Elementary, August 2022
- Renovate and expand E. Russell Hicks Middle, August 2023
- Build a new “South County” elementary, August 2023
- Modernize Western Heights Middle, August 2024
- Build a new “North County” elementary, August 2024