West Salisbury students to be relocated for construction

Wicomico’s school board has approved a plan to temporarily relocate West Salisbury Elementary School students to two other elementary schools to make way for the start of construction in the 2016-2017 school year.

Beginning in August, West Salisbury’s prekindergarten and kindergarten students will temporarily become part of Charles H. Chipman Elementary, whose attendance area is adjacent to West Salisbury’s.

First- and second-grade students from the West Salisbury attendance area will temporarily attend West Salisbury’s sister school, North Salisbury Elementary, which they were already set to attend for grades 3-5.

Having two Wicomico elementary schools serve as swing space will make it possible to fulfill the school system’s priority of keeping the West Salisbury Elementary School project moving forward, without delay, the Board said in approving the plan at its March 8 Board meeting.

Wicomico County is on track to have West Salisbury design development documents to the Maryland Department of General Services by April 1, a key step in the project receiving first-year state construction funding as of July 1.

The project received planning approval from the Board of Public Works earlier in the year. Wicomico County has already pledged funding for design and engineering for the project and is recommending funding for construction in FY2017.

The move out of West Salisbury Elementary will occur this summer, with preparations beginning now. West Salisbury Elementary will soon have meetings to share the plan with parents and answer questions about the move.

With West Salisbury School temporarily closed during construction, school staff and resources will be redeployed to the other two schools and within the school system.

The number of students being served will not change, only their location, said Dr. Margo Handy, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. West Salisbury Elementary’s students and staff will become part of Chipman Elementary and North Salisbury Elementary until the new West Salisbury’s projected opening in August 2018.

“It’s much more than just a physical move of classrooms. On the instructional side, a lot of decisions have to be made and we have already started working on that,” Handy said.

“While the move is not without its challenges, we’re pleased with this solution which has a lower cost than other options we explored and makes effective use of school support services like playgrounds and gymnasiums and cafeterias,” she said. “During construction the West Salisbury students will be able to learn in permanent school buildings instead of portables, and the students and staff will have air conditioning for the very first time.”

The move to Chipman and North Salisbury for the 2016-2017 school year will mean that students won’t have to return to a sweltering hot space in August. West Salisbury Elementary is the only remaining school in Wicomico County without any air conditioning in its classrooms. The school system will continue to seek funding from state and local sources to complete HVAC work at East Salisbury Elementary, which has partial air conditioning.

Placing West Salisbury students in existing schools during construction was a much more workable and affordable option than any of the other options that were explored over the past few months, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John E. Fredericksen said.

The West Salisbury building must be vacated for the new 350-student school to be built in its place. Relocating the Choices Academy this summer so its portable buildings could be used as swing space for West Salisbury was considered, but had a high price tag.

Board staff acknowledged that while Chipman Elementary and North Salisbury Elementary are currently somewhat under capacity, they will be temporarily over capacity but able to serve the additional students for the next two school years.

North Salisbury Elementary currently has 445 students in a building with a state-rated capacity of 552. Based on this year’s official Sept. 30 enrollment numbers for West Salisbury, there will be approximately 88 first-graders and 80 second-graders next year, or 168 students. Three portable classrooms will be moved from West Salisbury Elementary to North Salisbury to provide additional instructional space, and other adjustments will be made within the building.

Chipman Elementary currently has 322 students in a building with a state-rated capacity of 412, due to the second grade having been relocated to Glen Avenue Elementary in August 2015. Chipman can expect to receive approximately 125 prekindergarten and kindergarten students next year.

West Salisbury Elementary School serves a diverse student population of about 314 students that includes about 85 percent 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.

The new West Salisbury Elementary will 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.

 

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