Progress continues on West Salisbury replacement

The Wicomico County school board has approved the schematic design for the replacement West Salisbury Elementary School, keeping the project on a fast track toward final design, construction, and opening for the 2018-2019 school year.

At the Maryland Board of Public Works hearing last Wednesday, the school system will asked for $5 million in first-year construction funding for West Salisbury, as well as full funding of the Parkside High “above ceiling” portion of the currently recommended HVAC project and the Wicomico Middle partial roof project.

After that, the next West Salisbury project goal will be to have Design Development documents submitted to the Department of General Services by April 1, in support of a funding recommendation by the Board of Public Works in the final round of fiscal year 2017 capital funding decisions. Final state funding decisions on capital projects will come in late May.

County Executive Bob Culver’s proposed FY2017 CIP budget includes $7.5 million in first-year county construction funding.

At a Wicomico County School Building Commission meeting earlier in January, county, community, and school system officials reviewed and recommended the Board of Education approve the schematic design for the replacement West Salisbury Elementary School project. Wicomico Department of Facility Services staff members and the architectural & engineering team from Becker Morgan Group are pushing hard to ensure that the condensed design schedule and proposed fast-track construction schedule can be maintained in order to avoid escalation costs.

West Salisbury serves a diverse student population of about 314 students that includes about 85% of students eligible for Free and Reduced Meals, and 33 students with limited English proficiency. It is one of the oldest elementary school buildings in Wicomico County, and it has served the community since 1964 without any major capital improvements.

West Salisbury is the last school in the county without any air conditioning for instructional areas. (East Salisbury Elementary is partially air conditioned.) The media center is housed in a small portable building outside the school, and art and music must share a converted space that formerly housed a small media center.

West Salisbury is hard-pressed to accommodate both physical education classes and breakfast and lunch – plus the occasional assembly or special program – in a room the principal has dubbed the “cafegymnatorium,” which is a multi-purpose space that serves as the school’s cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium.

The new West Salisbury Elementary would have separate site access for bus and car traffic; dedicated art and music classrooms; space for Title I, Special Education, ELL and other support services; collaborative space for learning activities; storage for the school’s Maryland Food Bank pantry; a separate gymnasium and cafeteria sized for the school; and of course modern HVAC. In style and scale, the building has been designed to blend well into the mostly residential neighborhood.

In December, the school system learned that the Interagency Committee on Public School Construction has recommended to the Board of Public Works state planning approval for the project.

Planning approval by the Board of Public Works is typically a “green light” to proceed with design and planning and return the next year to request construction funding. With the West Salisbury School project already one year behind schedule due to funding constraints and planning deferral, Wicomico is seeking both state planning approval and state approval of first-year construction funding in the amount of $5 million for the fiscal year that will begin July 1 in an attempt to maintain the original projected opening of a new building in August 2018.

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