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October 12, 2013

Design committee determines future needs of Allegany

New high school should last for 50 years

CUMBERLAND — The design of the new Allegany High School, which plans call for to open on Haystack Mountain in the fall of 2017, is attempting to take into consideration changes in technology and education that will be occurring 50 years into the future.

“We have to keep in mind we are designing the school for the future and not the past,” said Larry Jackson, Allegany High School band director.

Jackson, along with language arts teacher Sally Buser, are the two Allegany faculty members who have been invited to participate in what’s known as the design committee.

In addition to Jackson and Buser, the design committee is made up of individuals from Grimm and Parker, the Calverton-based architects of the new school, and members and staff of the Allegany County Board of Education.

The architects and board members sought to add the perspective of Allegany High faculty members to the process.

“Grimm and Parker are really bending over backward to get input from staff and faculty,” said Buser.

An update on the design committee and their activities was a topic of discussion at the Oct. 8 regular meeting of the BOE.

While the old Sacred Heart Hospital site is being prepared for demolition to make way for the new school, the design of the new Allegany has been moving forward.

“We are designing a school to last for at least 50 years,” said Jackson.

As part of the process, the design committee, including Jackson and Buser, visited two new schools on Sept. 26 to see how they were designed. The committee visited The Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson and Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen.

“It was a great opportunity. We went during the school day so that our teachers could talk to the teachers who went through the process we are going through,” said David Cox, superintendent of schools and a design committee member.

The new Allegany is going to be designed for a student population of 800. The challenge for the committee is to anticipate the future needs of students and faculty.

Rapidly changing technology has brought into question the size and functionality of future libraries, computer labs and more. With the increasing use of tablet computing, the very need for a library and computer lab has been in question.

“You have to ask what a media center will mean, and will computer labs be needed? What will lockers look like?,” said Jackson.

Jackson said textbooks may be on a tablet in the future that can be updated whenever necessary.

“I remember when smart boards were the thing. Overhead projectors were also considered a must. Now they have smart walls that can bring up videos,” said Jackson.

What everyone agreed on was that future schools and their space must be flexible and adaptable.

“We also learned about the best use of corridor space and the importance of natural light,” said Buser.

Laurie Marchini, a BOE and design committee member, liked what she saw at Aberdeen High School.

“Aberdeen was more of a main street school which was more appealing to us,” said Marchini.

Marchini said Aberdeen placed the cafeteria, gym and auditorium all adjacent to each other so they could serve visitors for any type of event while closing the rest of the school off with ease.

Security is also an important topic for schools of the future.

“You have to think of what students will be dealing with years down the line,” said Marchini.

The design committee is expected to meet next at Allegany on Oct. 29 to work with design models known as charettes.

“Charettes are an intense period of design using circular and square models to come up with ideas,” said Vince Montana, a design team member and director of facilities for the board.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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