(Nov. 22, 2013) Space-stretched Showell Elementary School continues to proceed to an eventual overhaul as the Worcester County Board of Education on Tuesday chose an architectural and engineering firm to run its feasibility study.
The study will give the school at least two options — renovate and add on to the building or replace for the 34-year-old school — and cost estimates for each, said Joe Price, facilities planner for Worcester County Public Schools.
Salisbury’s Becker Morgan Group will carry out the study, which should start in January.
“They’re on top of their game, they’re professionals and they’re fantastic to work with,” Price said of the group.
Becker Morgan beat four other top-choice firms based on criteria that included experience conducting feasibility studies on schools, experience working with the state of Maryland, and biographies of individuals who will be helping with the project.
“The five firms were very close, but Becker Morgan stood out,” Price said. “We know them and they know us. They know what our expectations are.”
Becker Morgan also did the design work on the recently renovated Pocomoke High School, which he called a “beautiful school” that “fits into Pocomoke.”
The key issue to be addressed in the Showell study is space. The school on Route 589 near Ocean Pines uses nine portable classrooms and the entire second grade learns from the movable rooms, Worcester County schools’ Coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs Barbara Witherow said.
Even spaces that were storage rooms are now used as classrooms, she said. “Our current facility definitely has some deficiencies.”
Price added that the school’s electrical and mechanical systems “are probably nearing the end of their life expectancy” after almost 40 years.
Despite those problems, the Showell Feasibility Study is “right on schedule,” he said. It has been in line behind Stephen Decatur High School, Ocean City Elementary School, Worcester Technical High School, Pocomoke and Snow Hill for over a decade, as laid out in the schools’ Capital Improvement Plan.
“If we go through this process, we’re … looking at another two to three years for design,” Price said. “That’s why we’re on top of this now.”
Price anticipates taking the finished feasibility study before the Board of Education at its April 2014 meeting, give or take a month. Once Becker Morgan completes the study, between five and nine community meetings will be held so citizens can comment on the project.
The finished study will go to the Board of Education, the Worcester County Commissioners and the Maryland Public School Construction Program for approval.
The county commissioners will approve funding for the design process while the state will back actual construction, Price said.
Price budgeted $100,000 for the feasibility study and expects it cost less, though he is waiting to receive Becker Morgan’s draft contract, likely by mid-December.
“The building (will be) getting a complete physical. They will look at everything from the foundation to the roof,” Price said. “We’re going to let them tell us what we need to fix.”