- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s school board is requesting $30.6 million from county government for construction projects, including a new elementary school and major renovation to Spring Ridge Middle School, during the next five years.
The five-year total request to the county is about $8 million less than it was seven months ago, Kim Howe, director of capital planing, said. The primary difference came from delaying plans for a new elementary school campus to beyond 2020 and instead moving up an $18 million building to be paired with the existing Evergreen Elementary School.
The second building placed at the Evergreen site would help alleviate school overcrowding in the midsection of St. Mary’s County. Early elementary classes would be placed at the new building while Evergreen, which opened in 2009, would contain later elementary grades.
“Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary is not going to be able to take care of the capacity needs in the California area,” said Brad Clements, deputy superintendent of schools and operations.
The school board Wednesday approved its capital improvements program request and will hand it over to the county commissioners by early January for their eventual action.
Duke Elementary is due to open in 2015 and will cost more than $27 million. The Spring Ridge Middle renovation is now listed at $25 million and could start as early as next spring.
Howe said adjustments have been made to projects as the costs per square foot changed during the year. Costs to build new school buildings and major renovations are shared by state and county governments.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who sits on the state’s board of public works, which approves construction projects, said last week during a visit to St. Mary’s that he is aware of several large building projects for St. Mary’s public schools, including the Spring Ridge renovation.
“That’s a big priority for me, because I knew there was some damage to that school. And we’re going to take a look at the new [elementary] school, too,” he said of the board of public works’ decision to fund school construction projects.
Repairs were made this summer to fire-damaged classrooms at Spring Ridge, and school and elected officials urged a major renovation planned for the school to be moved up. The county commissioners committed $10 million to the project.
The school board on Wednesday also approved design development and construction documents for the renovation to send to the state.
“It’s really exciting to basically have a phoenix rise from the ashes,” board member Cathy Allen said.
The price tag for the project has crept up to $25 million in recent months, though, because of added work and changes in costs.
In an interview after an art award presentation at the school board, Franchot said an increase in the cost of the Spring Ridge renovation project “needs to be looked at closely.”
“There’s limited capital” to fund school projects, he said. “I assume Annapolis will look favorably upon that request. But it’s a cautious time.”
The state awarded only $1.8 million of the $7.2 million requested for the Spring Ridge renovation, zero dollars for the relocatable classroom trailers needed during the renovation and $3.2 million of the $5.7 million for Duke Elementary School for next year’s requests. School officials appealed to the state for more funding earlier this month.
“I’m very confident that our next round from that appeal will be very successful,” Howe said.
She said she expects results from the December appeal within a few days, but that there likely could still be some gap in the funding awarded. School officials may then have to appeal next month to the Board of Public Works, which is made up of the state’s governor, comptroller and treasurer, who dole out any remaining school construction funds.