Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 16, 2013

Faculty wants input on new Alco

Architects in initial stages of planning, design of $41 million school

CUMBERLAND — About 70 people attended a visioning session held in the Allegany High School auditorium Thursday, many with a wish list of additions and improvements they hope will be part of a new, $41 million Allegany High School being built several miles away.

Now officially in the first stages of planning and design by the architectural firm of Grimm and Parker of Calverton, several at the session asked that faculty be consulted for the plans.

“This new school has an existing faculty and staff intact. Leverage that talent and skill,” said Dave Kauffman, a Cumberland councilman.

Steve Parker hosted the session that began with slides from popular designs of today featuring flexible multi-use areas, collaborative learning spaces, media rooms along with expandable technology options, Wi-Fi and a cyber cafe.

“You need to be able to hear from those with that ownership in the design process. Because when it opens, that faculty will have to deal withany compromises that will have to be made,” said Kauffman.

Parker showed slides of spacious school designs with maximum use of natural light and transparency added to allow for good supervision.

Kauffman also pointed out the realities of the situation by saying there will be pie-in-the-sky requests.

“There will be no blank check here,” said Kauffman.

The school is being built at the site of the old Sacred Heart Hospital on Haystack Mountain and will have an 18-month design phase with a 24-month construction phase.

Paid for by $29 million from the state with the balance paid by local government, the new school is planned to open for the fall semester of 2017.

Parker heard from many who asked that the history of Allegany be made a part of the new school. First opening on Maryland Avenue in 1887, Allegany began operating at its current Sedgwick Street location in 1926.

“We want to allow the history to be a part of the new school,” said Parker.

Parker went around the auditorium and asked for input from each person present.

“Allegany is the oldest school in the county. I’d like to see that incorporated into the facade,” said Suzanne Wright.

Grimm and Parker, an award-winning architectural firm, has designed 36 high schools in the mid-Atlantic region, including Mountain Ridge High School.

“We want this to be a community school that is a 21st century learning environment for kids,” said Parker.

Ted Eirich, a teacher and basketball coach at Allegany, raised concerns over the sports facilities he has seen at Mountain Ridge.

“Their weight room is too small. It won’t work here. There is also not enough storage space for sports,” said Eirich.

Eirich said he was concerned about the amount of space at the site. He said that currently the band, at no fault of the organization, has to practice on the baseball field.

“Larry’s (Jackson) flag squad has no place to practice either,” said Eirich.

Many pleaded with the architects not to “skimp” on the designs. Others asked that the money be used wisely to get the school built correctly the first time.

 The topic that became a recurring theme was getting input from the school’s faculty.

“I hope you talk to the teachers,” said Jackson, teacher and band director.

Jackson said the music wing often ends up with practice rooms being used for storage.

Kimi-Scott McGreevy echoed Jackson and Kauffman on the importance of including the teachers in the plan phase.

“Work with the staff in each department. I think that is what would make it exceptional,” she said.

The architectural firm did point out a preference for an auditorium design, unlike Mountain Ridge, that had its entrance from the outside and not within the school building.

Some residents expressed a concern about a new school, with Bishop Walsh School adjacent to it as well, creating too much congestion for that location.

However, others said that a hospital, with three shifts operating and ambulances going in and out, operated there without congestion problems.

Another stakeholder wanted to make sure it would be a universal design that will allow for those with special needs.

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

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