County wants to build new Showell Elementary School

(Aug. 8, 2014) The Worcester County Commissioners decided Tuesday they want to build a new Showell Elementary School instead of renovating the existing school.

At this time, however, they are uncertain how the $650,000 fee for a design plan will be paid. The funds must come from the county; there are no state funds for a design plan.

“I think we have some flexibility in getting these funds appropriated,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson told the commissioners.

Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer, said monies had been sent aside for fiscal year 2016, and he would have a better idea of how the design plan could be paid for in October.

Bud Church, president of the county commissioners, said the issue would be “put on the top shelf.

We need to know where [t he money] is coming from.”

The Becker Morgan Group, an engineering and architectural firm based in Salisbury, performed the feasibility study, which is the first step of the planning efforts need to provide a school that would fully meet education requirements. Brad Hastings of Becker Morgan said it showed that a new school would be a better option than renovating the present building, which was constructed in 1976.

“It’s less costly in the long run,” Hastings said. “It provides a much better solution to problems being found there.”

Those problems, which total more than 80, include an aging roof, insufficient classroom space and inadequate technology systems. Numerous problems were cited, including finishes in general, heating and air conditioning systems and plumbing and electrical systems, are nearing the end of their life expectancy and lighting is substandard. Also, many items are not ADA-compliant and mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems do not meet current energy standards.

Estimated construction costs for renovation and additions to the existing school total $36.87 million, of which the state would fund $6.65 million and the county would fund $30.22 million. Estimated construction costs for construction of a new school, which would be located closer to Route 589, and demolition of the existing building would cost $37.49 million, of which the state would fund $6.65 million and the county could fund $30.84 million.

Additional costs for the renovation option would add $14.61 million for an estimated total project cost of $51.48 million. Those additional costs would include $3.4 million for the phasing of construction and $750,000 for the relocating existing portable classrooms and the addition of new ones. Building a new school would have no need for the phasing of construction and the cost for relocating some portable classrooms would be $210,000.

Neither option presented was intended as a final design.

Twelve classrooms and two teaching stations were added to the school in 1990, but its current educational program requirements exceed the square footage available. Although it was intended to house pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade, grade four was relocated to Berlin Intermediate School in 1999 to relieve overcrowding. Also, nine portable classrooms are used.

The Worcester County Board of Education wants to return grade four to Showell Elementary School.

In September 2013, the school’s enrollment was 566 students, or 102.2 percent of then its state-rated capacity. The cafeteria has four lunch sittings and also serves

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