Parents: Frederick High needs a swimming pool

Many of the parents and alumni at an informal meeting Wednesday night made one thing clear concerning any renovation and modernization of Frederick High School: No matter what route is taken, the school needs a swimming pool.

Attendees were also concerned about where classes would be held during the renovation, but it was the pool that received most of the attention.

“My biggest concern is whether a swimming pool will be added if we build a new school,” said Jeff Farrell, a Frederick resident with three children in the school system.

Farrell said he wanted the high school to keep the swimming pool open, even if the Board of Education decides to renovate.

“If they were to lose the pool, that would not be good a thing,” Farrell said.

About 50 people showed up for the meeting, including Frederick High Principal Kathy Campagnoli and Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Theresa R. Alban.

The school system is looking at several options to upgrade the high school in the next five years. The options include renovating the school; partially demolishing the school; adding and renovating; demolishing and replacing the school on the same site; and demolishing and replacing the school elsewhere on the school’s property.

Others in attendance said closing the pool could affect the school system’s swimming program if students have limited pool facilities. Middletown and Walkersville high schools are the only other schools in the county with swimming pools.

In response, FCPS officials said plans for a pool would be considered, but costs would be presented to school board members separately, so they could see both options.

“Every option will have its pros and cons,” said Ray Barnes, director of facilities for the school system.

Barnes answered questions on Wednesday night in a dimly lit cafeteria, where a video about the project was shown.

Those in attendance also listened to a presentation from Paul Hume, an architect with the Baltimore-based firm chosen for the project. Hume focused on the school’s infrastructure. He said the firm is considering historic elements of the school that parents, students and alumni want to keep.

“I would like to see them save the front of the school,” said Richard Floyd, president of the school alumni association.

The staircase outside the school and the large window near the entrance are two elements that graduates would like to see preserved, he said.

But preserving the school is a decision that may not be discussed at all if the board decides against the project.

“I am concerned that there is going to be a huge push to address capacity issues,” said M.C. Keegan-Ayer, a Frederick resident.

Keegan-Ayer said board members could choose to build three new elementary schools instead of a new high school. She said each option would cost the same amount of money. This year, 17 county schools opened at capacity, according to school system officials.

Frank Strakonsky, the girls cross-country and track coach at Frederick High, suggested holding classes at Frederick Towne Mall during construction if the project were approved. The mall has 175,480 square feet of enclosed area, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, and is valued at $7.4 million. Portable classrooms were also suggested.

“I think we would be looking at all options and all spaces that would be available during the renovation,” facilities planner Beth Pasierb said.

Strakonsky also suggested converting the swimming pool into an auxiliary gymnasium.

During Wednesday’s meeting, no concrete plans or designs for a new school building were introduced. Instead, school system officials said they wanted to hear from community members.

Barnes asked those in attendance to spread the word about the project. The school system also wants community feedback, photographs, memories and questions about the project as they move forward. Designs will be available for public review by late October or November.

“I said this, and I will say it many times: The community has to be an advocate for the project,” Barnes said.

The home of the cadets could be demolished and rebuilt by 2017 or 2018. Another option could be to renovate the current school building in order to keep some of its historic integrity, Barnes said.

“I encourage the community to remain engaged in the project throughout,” Barnes said.

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