CUMBERLAND — Upon the recommendation of the architects for the new Allegany High, members of the new school’s design committee traveled to Dallas on Monday to get an up-close look at two new schools, according to David Cox, Allegany County superintendent of schools.
Cox said that seeing schools in person has been very helpful in accessing what features work best.
“We want to make good decisions. We are going to build and operate a school that will be in service for at least 50 years,” said Cox.
The new Allegany High School, which officials hope to open in the fall of 2017, is expected to cost around $40 million.
In addition to Cox, other members of the design committee who traveled to Texas were Allegany faculty members Larry Jackson and Sally Buser along with school principal Mike Calhoun.
“I appreciate the fact that we get to see some different schools and see the pros and cons of the buildings,” said Calhoun.
The design committee, along with four staff members from Grimm and Parker, the architectural firm planning the new Allegany, visited two newly constructed schools: The Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Travel expenses for the Dallas trip were covered by the Allegany Public School System for the local personnel. Grimm and Parker paid for their staff members to go.
Grimm and Parker also designed Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg.
The design committee flew to Dallas on Sunday and visited the schools on Monday before taking a return flight home on Monday evening.
“I was most impressed with Gilliam Academy. I like the layout and the openness of it,” said Calhoun.
Those involved in the design phase are concerned about how to best use the number of square feet the new 800-student Allegany High School will encompass.
“We are trying to look at reimaging how to utilize corridor space. Although it’s primarily used for passage, it takes up a lot of square footage,” said Cox.
Calhoun was impressed with the use of space at the Gilliam Academy. He said the media center was beside the cafeteria.
“They used the cafeteria for instruction. I thought that was good because the cafeteria sits empty a large portion of the day,” said Calhoun.
The use of natural light is another desirable outcome.
“The new schools are very creative in their use of natural day lighting. It’s effective in creating a good learning environment and it can save on energy costs,” said Cox.
Cox said it was also beneficial to see the schools while they are in session and to talk to the staff because they have gone through this process.
“They will tell you what they like and also what didn’t work,” said Cox.
“You only get one chance to get it right. You need to spend the money wisely the first time so you don’t have to spend money later to get around it,” said Cox.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org