Future Growth Planning Underway Despite Slowdown

NEWARK – The Worcester County school system must plan for further expansion in the future, despite current growth slowdowns, because continued population growth will need renovated and new facilities, according to school board staff.

“This year we will have 49 temporary or portable classrooms, which confirms over and over again our buildings do not have the space to accommodate the programs we are offering our children,” said Ed Barber, assistant superintendent for administration.  

Joe Price, facilities manager, keeps on top of the construction market in the county and maintains a list of approved subdivisions with the locations and number of units to be built, enabling the school board to project enrollment in the future.  

“We may have, in the short term, stabilized as far as enrollment is concerned, but we’re going to grow,” Barber said.

The school board is in the process of creating the 2007-2008 educational facilities master plan. The draft, approved at the July 17 Board of Education meeting, will now be sent on to the Maryland State Department of Education for review and approval.

The plan details near-future construction projects, such as the continuation of the new Worcester Career and Technology Center and the renovation of Pocomoke High School, and also looks further into the future. 

Projects over the next decade included in the plan range from the renovation of Snow Hill High School, with complete planning documents to be requested in 2010, to projects in the far future, like the renovation of Berlin Intermediate School and Buckingham Elementary School.

The next initiative on the radar after Snow Hill High School is Showell Elementary School, currently the subject of a feasibility study.

“That’s the first step, to see what the construction possibilities are, what kind of construction the land can or can’t support,” Barber said. “Should we be looking at an addition or should we be looking at a new school building?”

Consultant Becker Morgan Group has already completed their preliminary survey of the elementary school.

“Showell is a very crowded school. It only has through grade three. There are a number of cottages,” said Board of Education member Jonathan Cook. “Cottages” is a euphemism for trailers used to expand the school’s classroom capacity.

Cook praised the master plan, saying, “This is an incredible document. It contains so much data.”