Fate of pool focus of Frederick High upgrade -- Gazette.Net



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When it comes to the planned modernization of Frederick High School, parents, alumni and swimming advocates agree on one thing: the school’s swimming pool should be a part of the project.

That was evident on Wednesday, when about 57 people and Frederick County Public Schools officials gathered at the school to discuss the renovation of the 73-year-old school.

The goal of the meeting was to inform the community about the upcoming modernization and get their reaction to it. Although those attending took advantage of the opportunity to learn about the project, most speakers raised concerns about the future of the pool.

“By not building a pool, it would virtually eliminate the swimming program in the county,” said John Henderson, a diving coach at Walkersville and Linganore high schools. “It is vital for all the schools in Frederick County.”

Only three county high schools — Frederick, Middletown and Walkersville — have pools that serve swimmers from throughout the school system.

So a potential loss of the Frederick High pool could affect swimmers from all parts of the county, parents and swimming advocates said.

However, school officials could not immediately answer their concerns. Ultimately, the Frederick County Board of Education will have to decide if the upgraded high school will have a swimming pool.

School system staff members are working to develop different options for the project and will present them to the school board by January.

The cost of modernizing the swimming pool will be included in each of the options, said Beth Pasierb, the school system’s facilities planner.

“This is encouraging,” said Mark Kavanaugh, a parent and one of the founders of Frederick County Advocates for Swim Teams who attended the meeting.

A multiyear, multistep process, the project would update Frederick High, which is the oldest high school in the county.

School officials hope to begin designing the modernized building in 2013 and start construction in 2015. The new school, which is expected to open in the fall of 2017, is expected to cost about $75 million.

The school system now is in the initial phase of the project in which a contractor, Baltimore-based GWWO. Inc. Architects, has been evaluating the state of the current building.

Paul Hume, an architect with the company, presented some of those findings at the meeting Wednesday. He cited numerous issues with the building, including stairways that are too narrow to be safe, patchy floors that need to be replaced, and an electrical system that is at the end of its lifespan.

Hume also said that the school swimming pool does not meet many of the requirements of USA Swimming, the national governing body of competitive swimming in the United States. The pool has seven lanes instead of eight, is not accessible for students with disabilities, and its pumps and other mechanical parts are at the end of their lifespans.

School officials will use the report to decide how to handle the modernization, developing various options for the renovation, including upgrading parts of the school, building a new school or renovating the entire building.

Officials at the meeting told parents they have not yet decided what will happen with students at the school during the modernization. One of the options would be to put them in portable classrooms during construction, said Ray Barnes, the school system’s director of facilities.

Barnes also urged parents to push for funding for the project before the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, which would ultimately have to provide money for it later this year.

“The community has to be the advocate for this project,” Barnes said.

Jana Shaffer, the president of the Frederick High School PTSA, said it will also be crucial to involve parents from the feeder elementary and middle schools.

“We need you all to come out and support us,” she told parents at the meeting.

mraycheva@gazette.net