The final stage of the Brunswick High School feasibility study came to fruition Wednesday evening in a way that parents and the Brunswick City Council wanted.
The final report along with a formal recommendation was presented to the Frederick County Board of Education at their worksession earlier in the afternoon and then discussed at length in their formal meeting.
FCPS Facilities Planner Holly Nelson, along with two members of the consulting firm Grimm and Parker Architects, had recommended a hybrid model of Scenarios One and Two, which involved a modernization of the existing school building in the short term with potential future additions to address capacity issues should they arise.
The feasibility study had been ongoing since January, with continued public support for Scenario Four from the beginning. Scenario Four opts for demolishing the current school and building a brand-new Brunswick High School.
Brunswick parents and community members showed up in large numbers at the school board’s evening meeting, and many of the public comments addressed the issue, urging the board to vote for Scenario Four rather than what had been recommended.
Many were concerned about the age of the current building and the possible asbestos that could be uncovered once the renovations proposed in the recommendation begin.
“I’m totally shocked and appalled that this study did not include an asbestos assessment before going to a vote,” Ellen Fowler said. “If you take your positions seriously you would insist to see this report. ... One slight failure will endanger our children.”
Another concern was the effect a renovation would have on certain programs at Brunswick High such as theater and auto shop, since construction would take about 42 months.
Brunswick High School is currently the only high school in the county that offers auto shop classes on campus. Other students in the county interested in taking these classes take them at the Frederick County Career and Technology Center.
Brad Eye said he and others are afraid that auto shop and other programs will be essentially wiped out during construction, as their spaces will not be usable.
After almost every public comment at the meeting related to the Brunswick High issue, each speaker would turn around and say to the crowd, “please stand if you agree with these comments.” Almost the entire room would stand in solidarity.
Lisa Pearre ended her comments by saying, “Please do the job we elected you to do, which is put the health and safety of children first.”
One of the main obstacles that the board seemed to face when considering scenarios was state funding. Board of Education President Brad Young reiterated many times in both the worksession and the meeting that even if the board did vote for Scenario Four, the state could turn around and not approve it based on the future capacity that Scenario Four presents, which is 1,000 seats. Current projections put capacity of BHS at 886.
The fact that future projections don’t add up to 1,000 seats could persuade the state not to fund Scenario Four, as according to the projections, a scenario that includes an extra 150 seats is not needed.
After more than 3½ hours, the school board voted 5-2, along with student member support, to approve and move forward with Scenario 4, with an adjusted capacity of 900 seats.
Joy Schaefer was one of the board members who voted against Scenario Four.
“It’s a concern about 20 million additional dollars ... and how that will affect other projects,” she said. “I would have preferred a much more careful decision-making process.”
Scenario Four is expected to cost approximately $93 million versus the recommended Scenario One, which had been proposed to cost roughly $72 million.
Board member Liz Barrett, who put the motion forward, said, “I moved to ensure that the students and families of Brunswick had a new school because that’s the best use of taxpayer resources and the best solution for students.”
“I’m happy that we’re going that direction,” Fowler said after the vote. “It is the best thing for our children, it is the safest thing for our children, it’s the best thing for our community.”