The long-awaited replacement of Frederick High School is moving to the next stage.
After months of collecting responses, questions and ideas from the public, school officials are getting closer to announcing the proposed options for the project, which aims to modernize the 73-year-old Frederick school.
During the past few months, school officials have been trying to decide how to handle the modernization, whether to update portions of the existing building or to raze and rebuild it.
Architects working on the project are developing the proposed options and will present them to the community in two public meetings later this month, according to school system facilities planner Beth Pasierb.
The first meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at West Frederick Middle School, and the second at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at Hillcrest Elementary, both of which are in Frederick.
“We are targeting not just the current Frederick High School community, but also the feeder schools,” Pasierb said.
Once the options are released, it will be up to the Frederick County Board of Education to select a final plan for the modernization project.
But before that, members of the public will have a chance to review the options and provide feedback to school officials, Pasierb said.
In the meantime, school officials also are inviting residents to tour Frederick High and compare it to one of the newer high schools in the system. The tour will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, with members of the community given the chance to tour both Frederick and Tuscarora high schools.
Student ambassadors at each school will be available to assist visitors as they take the self-guided tour.
The idea behind the tour is to allow community members to see what features are available at newer schools that Frederick High does not have. Although a modernized Frederick High will not look exactly like Tuscarora, it may end up with a similar modern computer laboratory or a media center, Pasierb said.
The tour is designed for Frederick High parents, alumni or parents of middle and elementary students in the area who might not necessarily know what a modern high school looks like, she said. But anyone is welcome to take the tour, she said.
“The tour was in response to some public comments,” Pasierb said. “Tuscarora would be a representation of a modern high school.”
Frederick High, the oldest high school in the county, has been waiting for an update for more than a decade.
The school has a variety of problems, including unreliable air conditioning and an open-floor classroom design with no permanent walls and doors to isolate noise and separate classrooms. The school’s auditorium, media center and cafeteria also are outdated and too small for the needs of students.
Recognizing the needs of the school, school officials this year initiated a $200,000 feasibility study, the first step in the modernization process.
The study, which is being conducted by the Baltimore-based GWWO, Inc., aims to examine the state of the current school building, as well as its safety specifications, to determine how to approach the project. The feasibility study also will determine how much it would cost to raze and rebuild the school versus updating just portions of it.
School officials now estimate that the total cost of the project would be about $80 million, Pasierb said.
They hope to begin designing the modernized building in 2013 and start construction in 2015. The new school is expected to open in the fall of 2017.
To keep the schedule on track, it will be important for the public to support the project in the spring when the Frederick County Board of Commissioners approve their fiscal 2014-19 Capital Improvement Plan, according to Jana Sheffer, president of the Frederick High School Parent Teacher Student Association.
That is why PTSA representatives and school officials in the last months have tried to involve as many community members in the project as possible, Sheffer said.
Advocates have been focusing on the parents of students who attend the middle and elementary schools that feed into Frederick High because they would be the ones who ultimately would benefit from the renovation.
Sheffer and others have already spoken to parents at West Frederick Middle, as well as at Parkway and Whittier elementaries. They also are planning to go to Hillcrest Elementary later this month, said Sheffer, who encouraged parents in the feeder schools to take the tour.
“Most of them have heard about this,” she said. “But many of them haven’t even been to the high school. And we are going to need their help for advocacy.”