By Sarah Vogelsong
The most recent plans for the Caroline High School and Madison Elementary School renovations were presented to the public at the May 12 School Board meeting and the May 13 Board of Supervisors meeting.
“In the age of openness, we’re spending $25 million of county citizens’ money,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Floyd Thomas at the May 13 meeting. “We should all know how our money’s being spent.”
The renovations, which were approved by more than 80 percent of county voters in a November 2013 bond referendum, can be broken down into three components: resurfacing of the CHS track, additions and renovations to CHS, and additions and renovations to MES.
The CHS track surfacing has already been approved by the county and has been put out for bids. Randy Jones, chief executive officer of OWPR, the architecture and engineering firm overseeing all three of the projects, said that construction was expected to begin around June 2, with final completion slated for Sept. 1.
The current track will be drilled down to the asphalt, and the new rubberized surface will be fitted on top. The drainage issues afflicting the track and its surrounding field will also be addressed at the same time.
The most current budget for the track project is estimated at $400,000, about two-thirds of the original budget estimate of $600,000. The reduction was due to the discovery that less work would be needed to renew the base under the track.
School Board members devoted special attention to this part of the renovations during the board comments period of the May 12 meeting.
“There seemed to be some grief among the taxpayers of Caroline County about us doing this track first,” said Reedy Church district representative Mack Wright. “They need to understand this is a leftover CIP (capital improvement project) item from 2008, 2009.”
Western Caroline district representative Mary Anderson concurred: “People have to understand that we could not start on the high school now. This way, we can at least get some things accomplished in the summer, and it gives us a big head start.”
At the May 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, Superintendent Gregory Killough emphasized that the current track was deteriorating and represents “a major safety issue.”
The additions and renovations for the CHS building have been updated from those posted on the school system’s website in January. The project’s design package is not yet complete but is expected to be finished by early August and advertised for bids by the middle of that month. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin in September and the two-year project will be completed by August 2016.
Speaking before the School Board, Jones emphasized the secure main entrance, new administrative and guidance suite, new library and media center, additional science laboratories, and upgraded gym that are part of the CHS renovation plans.
At the May 13 meeting, Killough told the Board of Supervisors that the new library “will have its own entrance and its own bathrooms so it can be used for night meetings and night activities without having to open access to the entire building.”
The new science labs have been planned in collaboration with the science department in a flexible arrangement that will permit the addition of more labs in the future if needed.
The new gym will include team rooms, coaches’ offices, additional public restrooms, a new weight room, a concessions area, and storage area. The locker rooms are also being completely gutted and reconfigured.
Killough on May 13 told the Board of Supervisors that the renovated CHS should be able to accommodate 1,400 to 1,600 students. Currently, just over 1,100 students attend the high school.
The design plans for the MES project are currently 85 percent complete and should be advertised for bids by June. Work is projected to begin in late July and to be completed by August 2015.
The MES project fell about three weeks behind schedule because of weather and delays in finalizing the purchase of a 6.9-acre parcel of land adjacent to the school that will allow a new bus loop to be built to avoid conflicts between the buses and the construction.
Other additions include a new secure entrance similar to that used in Lewis and Clark Elementary and Bowling Green Elementary, new classrooms, a new media center, a new visitor parking area, and a larger cafeteria. The fire alarm system will also be upgraded, and a new intercom and phone system will be installed.
This past Friday, Madison held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the construction that will begin in July. (See article on page X.)
At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Killough broke down the $21 million price tag of the CHS renovations into $8.6 million for building renovations, $9 million for building additions, $1.4 million for bleacher repair for site costs, track resurfacing, athletic facility upgrades, and miscellaneous site improvements for additional field space, and $2 million for other miscellaneous costs such as testing, surveys, and architectural fees.
The MES project is expected to cost $4 million.
At the May 12 School Board meeting, Madison district representative Shawn Kelley expressed his optimism about the renovation projects.
“I think that this renovation for the high school and Madison Elementary is going to change the perception of Caroline County Public Schools,” he said. “The word is spreading. … Things are changing, and things are getting better.”