Nearly $80 million eyed for school renovations
ROCK HALL — A draft report outlining the future of Kent County Public Schools’ facilities includes a nearly $80 million proposal to relocate middle school students to the district’s Worton campus and renovate several other buildings.
The draft six-year plan compiled by consultant David Lever is under review by the district’s Strategic Planning Committee. Committee members held initial discussions Oct. 26 over the draft and will convene at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Kent County Middle School in Chestertown to offer their top choices among the options listed in the proposal. The meeting is open to the public.
“If adopted, the suggestions presented in this report will bring three of the five school facilities in the school system to contemporary standards of building performance and educational adequacy,” the report states.
Those facilities are the middle school, Kent County High School in Worton and Galena Elementary School. Also included would be “modest renovations” at Rock Hall Elementary School.
According to the report, the best combination would be to build a middle school addition to the northwest side of Kent County High School, renovate the high school and replace the roof, renovate Galena Elementary, renovate the now-closed Worton Elementary School and move the district’s central office there and renovate Rock Hall Elementary and replace the roof.
The capital cost for the entire project would reportedly be about $77.2 million. The report states that $24.7 million could come from the state, leaving the county on the hook for $52.5 million.
Moving middle schoolers from Chestertown to a new facility in Worton leaves open the question of what to do with the current middle school. The report suggests Garnet Elementary School in Chestertown could move to the larger building. Garnet would then be surplused back to the county. The middle school building could remain vacant and be surplused.
“Either of these actions would substantially reduce the overall size of the KCPS building plant and improve its operational efficiency,” the report states.
The report shows draft plans for a middle school wing at Kent County High School. The middle school would have a separate entrance, but share spaces such as the gym, auditorium and planetarium.
The renovations at Kent County High School would move the weight room in proximity with other physical education areas and likewise consolidate the Career and Technical Education facilities.
“The high school renovations are included in this combination because they can be accomplished at the same time as the construction of the middle school addition, at a relatively low cost and disturbance to the educational program,” the report states.
At Galena Elementary, the preferred option in the report shows renovations that would improve the HVAC system by making it geothermal, improving circulation through the school, bringing daylight into interior spaces currently without any and increasing the number of instructional areas without adding on to the building.
For Rock Hall Elementary, the renovations suggested are to remove the former high school locker spaces to increase instructional area.
While those are the recommended suggestions, the report includes a number of alternatives of increasing and decreasing scope, such as a new middle school in Worton completely separate from Kent County High School and additions to Galena Elementary.
“A range of options exist to increase the efficiency of the school system’s building plant while also improving the instructional environment and building performance,” the report states. “Further discussions as well as input by the community may reveal preferences for other combinations of projects. The potential bonding capacity of the County Government is also a factor that will affect the scopes of work that are adopted and the project schedule.”
The Strategic Planning Committee is only the first step in a long public review and approval process for any sort of capital plan the district might take on.
At the Strategic Planning Committee meeting Oct. 26 at Kent County High School, Chairman Jeff Grotsky asked members to come back to the next meeting with their top choice and an alternate.
Francoise Sullivan, a member of the committee, said she initially preferred the idea of a separate middle school on the Worton campus.
Committee member Tracey Williams, former Kent County High School principal, now supervisor of student services and secondary education for the district, said that by building a separate middle school, the district would lose the opportunity to obtain state funding for renovations at the high school.
Questions were raised over the total cost by committee member Richard Kalter, who said county officials were likely to balk at the price tag rather than raise taxes to fund the building and renovation efforts.
Committee member Joseph Harding said the district needs new facilities. He said the buildings cannot be renovated to modern standards.
Grotsky said he did not think questions of financing were within the committee’s purview. He said the committee is to look at the district’s facilities and make decisions based on what is appropriate. He said whether it gets funded is up to the Kent County Commissioners to decide.
Kalter said he wanted to be “somewhat realistic” in what the committee proposes.
In addition to the meeting Thursday at Kent County Middle School, the committee will hold a workshop with the Kent County Board of Education from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13 at the district’s central office in Rock Hall.
A committee formed by the Kent County Board of Education is considering a proposal to build a middle school addition to the northwest side of Kent County High School in Worton.
Consultant David Lever discusses a proposal Oct. 26 with the Kent County Board of Education Strategic Planning Committee to build a middle school wing at Kent County High School in Worton.