SNOW HILL – An addition at Stephen Decatur Middle School, roof replacements at several schools and a renovation or replacement of Buckingham Elementary School remain priorities for the school system.
On Wednesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved the FY 2022 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) presented by Worcester County Public Schools officials. The CIP identifies current school construction needs, including an addition at Stephen Decatur Middle and the eventual renovation or replacement of Buckingham Elementary School. Superintendent Lou Taylor thanked the commissioners for their support during the county’s last school construction project, Showell Elementary School.
“Showell Elementary School not only provides current and future students with a new state of the art school but it’s also a testament to the results of communication and collaboration between the commissioners and the board of education,” Taylor said.
The CIP identifies capital priorities as a 24,000-square-foot addition at Stephen Decatur Middle, roof replacement at Snow Hill Middle, Cedar Chapel Special School, Stephen Decatur Middle and Pocomoke Elementary School as well as replacement or renovation of Buckingham Elementary School.
When asked about the size of the Stephen Decatur Middle addition, Taylor said it was the same square footage of the wing that was cut off the original design of the school to save $1 million. The addition, which will include 12 general classrooms as well as four science labs and storage and meeting space, is projected to cost $10 million.
“It’s going to cost us 10 times what it would have cost if we’d done it when we built the school,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if education officials were looking at options for Buckingham.
“At Showell we were able to build the school behind the existing school,” he said. “The footprint of Buckingham suggests that might not be possible.”
Taylor agreed and said officials had concerns and were looking into options.
“We’re going to have some folks take a look at that and see what our options would be before we move forward,” Taylor said. “We do have that concern. Also some of the regulations the Town of Berlin has differ from the county. These are challenges that we’ll have to face as well.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the CIP and asked Taylor to provide an update on the school system’s internet connectivity issues. Schools have dealt with internet problems since the last wave of students returned on Oct. 26.
Taylor said a hardware issue had been identified and fixed and that Wednesday morning some internet was available.
“We’ve had some intermittent things go out but it’s the Maryland broadband system that sent an email out to us saying they’ve had some issues throughout the entire state. So for the most part it’s been up and running today,” he said.
Taylor added, however, that major infrastructure upgrades were needed as more issues could arise. In fact, by Wednesday afternoon after Taylor’s meeting with the commissioners, intermittent outages had occurred once again inside public schools.
“We’re going to have to identify, in a long-range plan, some things that we’re going to have to do with the infrastructure of our system moving forward because I’m not sure that we have all things in place to handle it down the road,” he said. “Believe me it will be a phase because I know the price tag’s going to be big, and we’re going to look at moving forward how we can best afford that to make those corrections. Certainly as we do that you will be in the loop.”