The Showell Elementary School reconstruction project is moving forward after bid approval from the Worcester County Board of Education. The remaining hurdle is approval of an increased price tag from the Worcester County Commissioners.
It’s been a long and difficult road for this project, but ground could be broken within months if the commissioners approve the bids as expected.
When the project bids come before them for review and approval, the commissioners must be sure the reconstruction project on the table for Showell Elementary School will be big enough to handle future growth at the school for the dollars about to be spent.
The worry here is once the new project is constructed and finished in late 2020 (an estimate) it may not be big enough to meet enrollment demands. It will be inexcusable if this new school opens and still requires portable trailers for classrooms. It would be unacceptable if trailers are needed even within a few years of the school being completed. That would be poor planning. Now is the time to ensure officials are getting it right.
Showell Elementary, built in 1976 and renovated in 1990, currently utilizes nine portable classrooms for pre-kindergarten through third grade. Current enrollment demands required the school to relocate its fourth grade to Berlin Intermediate years ago.
This project has been batted around a lot in recent years. The commissioners will surely be dismayed to learn the project cost has already jumped $2 million, due to a busy construction market, before one shovel hit the ground. Back in November of 2015, the commissioners and the school board were far apart on their visions for the new school. The school system wanted a $54 million, 104,000-square-foot facility for an enrollment of 657 students. The commissioners said no way and worked with school system officials to agree upon a $37 million, 94,000-square-foot school for the same number of students.
It’s unclear how the enrollment projection was derived, but we know the plan is for Showell to once host a fourth grade, which will ease crowding issues at Berlin Intermediate School.
The Showell school community has waited too long for this project. Politics and previous differences between the former superintendent of schools and the commissioners derailed the project for a bit. The process is back on track as of now and the commissioners will likely approve the revised project cost this month, but we surely hope the new school will meet present and near future enrollment demands.