Cumberland Times-News


April 16, 2014

Which approach to the school makes sense?

What exactly is the long-range plan, according to the Allegany County Commissioners?

I’ve read in the Cumberland Times-News that the current County Commissioners intend to spend $9 million to construct a new high school.

Based on the costs of the new school discussed so far, that’s not going to be enough. The board of education has talked about a drastic solution: reducing the number of classrooms and eliminating an auditorium and playing fields. Some have called for scrapping the new Allegany High School and going back to the drawing board.

Failing to proceed with the construction of the new Allegany High School at a 93 percent state, 7 percent local investment will cost us more local tax dollars, not less. In other words, not constructing this school is not going to save us money. In fact, it will cost us money.

The county is faced with the prospect of keeping kids in the current Allegany by patching its electrical and other major systems, a decision that could result in a lawsuit by parents regarding inequity in educational opportunities and children housed in an unsafe school building.

The other idea involves adding on to Fort Hill with almost all costs borne by the county.

The construction needed at Fort Hill would be considerable and expensive, as a new classroom wing would be needed and existing common spaces expanded, such as the gym, cafeteria, library, etc.

In addition, the school name would need to be changed along with school colors, school mascot, etc. New uniforms for all sports teams, the cheerleaders, color guard, and the band would also be required. Band uniforms alone can cost upwards of $30,000.

The board of education has planned for a new high school that can support a stable or growing population; its fallback position is to use the new Allegany as a citywide middle school in the event that Allegany County’s population continues to decline.

With the lack of leadership and the backward thinking of the current commissioners, our future could well include another decline in population and the continued shrinking of our tax base.

At least with this new facility, we’ll be prepared, regardless. But we must complete it while the state will participate.

After its initial construction — be it with or without an auditorium, fields, enough classrooms — the state walks away. Any additional construction will come completely out of our local tax dollars.

So which approach makes the most sense? The approach of our commissioners, which is to build an inadequate school that will have physical plant issues from the get go, or that of the board of education, which is to build a solid facility that will meet the need of current and future students? The answer is simple: Build the school the way it needs to be built.

Rita Schoenadel



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