(Nov. 8, 2019) With major potential changes looming from the Kirwan Commission and its proposed multi-billion-dollar revamping of Maryland’s education requirements, the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday passed the county board of education’s proposed FY21 capital improvement plan as a planning document.

School Superintendent Lou Taylor presented an updated list of current and future construction projects to improve schools. 

During review, Commissioner Chip Bertino asked that if the state is supposed to fund half of school construction costs, why it was only providing $362,000 of a $9 million addition to Stephen Decatur Middle School in Berlin. 

Joe Price, facilities planner, explained that Maryland only funds 50 percent if the local school builds to what the state thinks it should build. 

“The state’s formula is based on the state-rated capacity of the school and the projected enrollment seven years out,” Price said. “Our projected enrollment seven years out is 680 students. When you clock all those numbers in the state formula, they say that Decatur Middle should be 81,000 square feet. Right now, it’s 79,500 square feet. So the state is saying ‘You need 15,000 square foot addition, and we’ll come in on half of that.’” 

However, Price said a 15,000-square-foot addition was not an option because that’s space for less than two classrooms. Bertino confirmed with Price that the state is only funding 19 percent of the construction to Showell Elementary School. 

“When we hear from state officials that we get 50/50 funding, that rarely happens, especially here in Worcester County,” Bertino said. 

Bertino asked if the capital improvement planning document incorporates the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Price replied that the board has planned through 2028 under current state education mandates. Bertino noted that if Kirwan were implemented, Worcester elementary schools would have to change their preschool programs to full-day programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. 

“We’d be hard pressed as far as facilities to be able to accommodate that, so that could affect the CIP going forward,” Bertino said. 

Price confirmed that four schools — Buckingham Elementary, Snow Hill Elementary, Pocomoke Elementary and Ocean City Elementary  — would have additional construction costs to accommodate for the state-mandated preschool program. The future Showell Elementary School in Berlin would not have to add on, and according to Taylor, it is still on schedule for construction completion by next September. 

The current funding formula recommendations for the Kirwan Commission still have to be passed by the full Kirwan Commission, as well as the Maryland General Assembly.

Requests in the FY21 capital improvement plan are: 

• Funding from the commissioners and the state for a $2.7 million roof replacement and Pocomoke Middle School. According to Taylor, the board of education plans to bid the project in November 2020 and begin work in summer of 2021.

• Planning approval for the $9 million addition to Stephen Decatur Middle School. Pending approval, construction will begin fall of 2021. 

Future projects listed are: 

• Roof replacement at Snow Hill Middle School.

• Roof replacement at Cedar Chapel Special School in Snow Hill. 

• Roof replacement at Pocomoke Elementary.

• Renovation/addition or replacement project for Buckingham Elementary in Berlin.

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