County, Schools Reach Agreement On Showell Project

SNOW HILL – In spite of an initial disagreement regarding the enrollment figures associated with a new Showell Elementary School, the Worcester County Commissioners and education officials have resolved their differences.

In November, the commissioners voted 4-2 to let state officials know they weren’t in agreement with the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) submitted by the Worcester County Board of Education. Since then, however, county officials say the school system has revised the CIP and the construction of a new Showell Elementary School outlined in it once again has county support.

“Now we’re all in agreement,” said Harold Higgins, chief administrative officer for Worcester County.

The disagreement this fall stemmed from a decision by the commissioners to put a $37 million price tag on the construction of a new Showell school, a project that had been estimated at $54 million by the school system.

When the commissioners cut the project cost, the school system reduced the size of the building from 104,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet and decreased enrollment from 657 to 616.

Commissioners argued that the school at 90,000 square feet could handle the originally projected 657 students. They agreed to advise the state, which oversees school construction projects, that they didn’t support the adjustments to the CIP.

A few weeks later, however, school system officials said they met with a subcommittee of the commissioners and agreed to revise the CIP so it again reflected enrollment of 657 and a project cost of $37,181,000. At that point, Higgins said, the county sent a letter to state officials advising them that the commissioners no longer had any issues with the project as proposed.

Higgins said the recent agreement between the school system and the commissioners did not come up at a regular county meeting because, knowing from a fall session that they supported the project at a cost of $37,181,000 and enrollment of 657, he didn’t feel it needed additional clearance.

“Theoretically, the approval was in the first presentation,” Higgins said. “The clock was ticking. We did not want to postpone [sending the letter] another couple weeks.”

When contacted Monday, David Lever executive director of the state’s Interagency Committee on School Construction, said he hadn’t yet seen the letter from Worcester County saying the disagreement was resolved but that he was hoping the project would move ahead once he did.

“We’re keeping the door open for this project,” he said. “We’d like to see it go forward.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.