Packed BOE Meeting

A beyond-capacity-crowd descended on the Frederick County Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening to voice concern about several issues, most notably the Brunswick High School feasibility study.

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.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

(4) comments


Daughters graduated from Brunswick 11-12 years ago. One has Masters in Special Ed. I get a little annoyed when I hear people suggesting teachers are not doing their jobs. Based on my experience from listening to my daughter, the basic problems with teaching students begins at home, such as lack of parental involvement & discipline. Remember my daughter recently telling me she suggested some structural discipline for one of her challenged student to the parent. The parents response was, they don’t feel discipline was so important. As far as Brunswick needing a new school. This is long overdue. It was my experience at the time my daughter attended when there was discussion about upgrading or revamping Brunswick area schools, funding seemed to be designated otherwise. Long overdue.

Comment deleted.

Much truth here except the part about lazy teachers; don't know any...

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It am having a hard time believing you have any recent or meaningful association with our schools today. You clearly have not actually tried to contact a teacher, or used any of the technology you disdain. This discussion deserves more than a tired old trope ranting against "high cost dilly dallies".

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This post is an utter lie. Brunswick feeder patter teachers have been nothing but available and responsive. Valley has turned out to be a much better academic setting than Carroll Manor. There is no Olympic swimming pool anywhere in the BHS plans. My only quibble, after studying all four plans and reluctantly coming around to supporting option four, is that the Brunswick Crossing projections of future student growth are going to be off and 900 -- while a compromise -- is still too low. FCPS's formula has been off in every scenario as rapacious developers skate.

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