The Charles County Board of Education met with two members of the Charles County Commissioners Monday, Aug. 25 to discuss a presentation on the BOE’s Capital Improvement Projects study completed by the architectural firm of GWWO.
Commissioners Reuben Collins and Ken Robinson were in attendance to hear the firm’s assessment of which schools in the county will be rated in terms of infrastructure and renovations. It is estimated that any work on addressing issues will begin in the 2016 budget cycle, much of which will depending on funding sources and other factors, including school overcrowding, which has been an issue at several of the county’s schools.
Charles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kim Hill stressed that while there are many schools that need addressing, what she considered the most important fact about the study was that regardless of the firm’s score of different structures, every building in the school system is well-maintained and safe as Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) can make it for the students.
She said that CCPS has spent $60 million out of its general fund over the last 10 years maintaining their schools.
“We recognize we have work to do to update some of our facilities,” Hill said. “We own that and we are going to act on it.”
GWWO Assistant Superintendent for Supporting Services Keith Hettel told the gathering that many buildings in the system are between 50 and 60 years old. He said the firm’s intention was to develop a 10-year comprehensive plan for Capital Improvement for all of the schools and what it would take to bring some of those buildings up to present specifications.
“Specs 40 years ago were a lot different than what they are now,” Hettel stated.
The architectural firm used several factors in determining which sites need upgrading, including capacity, enrollment, the physical assessment of the building, surveys from principals and building managers, and the condition of mechanical systems and site characteristics. The 10-year plan to update existing schools and build new schools was projected to cost in excess of $587 million.
He said they started by meeting with CCPS and obtaining objectives for the future, with discussions including capacity concerns, open space classrooms and the ages of schools.
“This was so we could have a real idea and concept of each and every facility in the district at this point,” he said, adding that they did onsite assessments of every school, whether a school is safe or secure. “We’ve already established those parameters,” Hornfeck added
He said schools that are at 120 percent capacity move to the top of the list.
Board of Education member Jennifer Abell asked if the study including relocatables, the trailers used at certain schools to quell overcrowding. Hornfeck said it did not.
“There’s one recommendation missing,” said chair Roberta Wise. “Where do we find $587 million?”
“We have quite a few trails to travel down from this point,” said Charles County Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins.
Hettel said that they envision the actual work of addressing CIP projects in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
“This study provides us with a road map we haven’t had to this point,” said Commissioner Robinson. “It helps the county and community realize what needs are. Once you take this to the commissioners, the biggest question is, what do we do to reduce the trailers? In schools that are overcrowded, we would like to see what it would take to reduce the number of trailers.”
“It looks like you’re working to have permanent seats,” board member Maura Cook said, calling the temporary classrooms at this point, “a necessary evil.”
Hornfeck said that when the firm says work will begin in 2016, he said total planning will start that year, but additional funding would come later for bricks and mortar.
“It’s impossible to phase where your funding will come from year to year,” he added.
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