Cumberland Times-News

Columns

July 14, 2014

Build it now

Auditorium for Allegany won’t get any cheaper

— Anticipated savings from demolition work that will provide ground for a new Allegany High School on Haystack Mountain may allow the addition of an auditorium at the school.

That’s a good thing. It’s hard to think of a school without an auditorium of some kind.

An associate with the architectural firm hired to design the school said the Allegany County Board of Education should put the auditorium back into its base plans, rather than relegating it to alternate bid status.

As it is, ballfields, tennis courts and several classrooms may have to be eliminated to keep costs within line.

Time was, schools had auditorium facilities that (even when combined with basketball courts) provided adequate seating for the entire student body. Some newer schools cannot seat all of their students at once and are forced to hold multiple commencements and other exercises.

Whether that will be the case at the new Allegany remains to be seen, as does the ultimate cost of the school.

Scott Esbach of Grimm and Parker, the architects, said, “It will never be less expensive (to add the auditorium) than now. It will be more expensive down the road.”

File that under the category of Truer Things Have Never Been Said.

Long, long ago, the state of Maryland allocated the Board of Education enough money to build a new Allegany High School in Cresaptown.

Allegany and Fort Hill high schools in Cumberland have long been the source of a rivalry that goes beyond the athletic field. Construction of a new school would have led to redistricting that sent students to a school they would not otherwise attend. Therefore, the idea met with enough resistance that the money lay unused for years.

Rampant inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, coupled with increasing construction costs, reduced that money to a fraction of its initial value. When 30 years or so ago the state told the school board to either spend the money or give it back, there was no longer enough to build a new high school.

Considerable debate ensued, and it was acrimonious. Ultimately, the board decided to take the money and remodel the existing Allegany.

Unfortunately, the money was insufficient to do a proper job of remodeling Allegany, which is part of the reason it now must be replaced.

Money was available during better times to do a good job of remodeling Fort Hill High School, where, ironically, a community meeting was held to discuss the future of Allegany High School.

Fort Hill’s auditorium was then, and still is, big enough to do what ever needs to be done there.

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