Allegany High School Replacement Project
Allegany High School was constructed in 1925 and has well exceeded its useful life. In 2009, the Board of Education hired an independent educational consultant, Eperitus, to facilitate a utilization study of the secondary schools in the City of Cumberland and the Career Center. The results of this study provided information and recommendations for subsequent decisions of the school board related to the development of a long-range capital improvement plan for Allegany and Fort Hill High Schools, Washington and Braddock Middle Schools, and the Career Center. A community task force was assembled to work collaboratively with Eperitus to establish evaluation criteria through indicators of quality, review data, identify viable options, make evaluations based on the criteria, explore implications, and make recommendations. This resource committee was comprised of staff members from each of the five schools being studied; high school students from Allegany, Fort Hill, and the Career Center; community and business representatives who reside in the Allegany and Fort Hill attendance areas; parents of children enrolled in the five schools being studied; parents with children enrolled in a feeder elementary school; and central office staff and County government. Eperitus' four-member team complemented the resources, experiences, and expertise of the school system's internal staff as well as the Superintendent's community resource committee.
The resource committee's recommendations placed Allegany High School as the highest priority to receive needed capital improvements. In February 2011, the Board of Education took the next step in the renovation and/or construction process and awarded a contract to Grimm & Parker Architects of Calverton, Maryland, to complete a feasibility study of three schools in the City of Cumberland. A feasibility study is a requirement of the State Public School Construction Program when a school construction project includes the abandonment of an existing facility or demolition of more than 50% of the facility. It is also the first required step for capital improvements funding through the Public School Construction Program. The goals of the feasibility study were to examine options for the three schools while maintaining safe and healthy schools which enrich the educational experience for all students; to provide programs and services in the most cost efficient and effective manner; to maximize the utilization of school facilities which included the regular school day use, after-hours use, and community use; and to provide options for renovation, replacement, adaptive reuse, or a combination of the school facilities. The clear recommendation from Grimm & Parker was to replace Allegany High School on a new site.
Finding a suitable site for a new school posed a significant challenge; however, the school board selected the site of the former Western Maryland Health System's Braddock Campus Hospital complex at the recommendation of Grimm & Parker. While the value of an existing building is significant, often from a financial and environmental standpoint, in the end, the architects' decision to build a new facility arose from the efficiency and educational quality lost by the use of the existing hospital. The building systems required for health care facilities are very different from those for schools. Allegany County Commissioners have supported this project by placing it on their Capital Improvement Project Plan, and the City of Cumberland worked collaboratively with the Board of Education and WMHS to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that conveyed a parcel of undeveloped land, owned by the City of Cumberland, in exchange for the WMHS's donation of the Braddock Campus site to the Board of Education for the purpose of building the new Allegany High School.
The next step in the process was to solicit proposals for an architect for the design of the new school. Based on the unanimous recommendation of the Architect Selection Committee, which was comprised of employees of the Board of Education and Allegany County Government, Grimm & Parker Architects was selected. Based on the evaluation of the technical and cost proposals, the committee agreed that Grimm & Parker was the most experienced, best qualified, and most economical choice. Grimm & Parker has a 38-year history dedicated to public education in 26 different educational systems and are the recipients of more than 185 education and design awards. The firm's local projects have also included Mountain Ridge High School and the Frostburg and Lonaconing Libraries.
In May 2013, the school board heard a presentation from Grimm & Parker regarding their vision for the new Allegany High School. The role of the architect in the design process for the new school is to align the values of the program with the facts of the program. Factual data includes such things as program size and components, operations, maintenance, and site concerns. The values of the project were determined by gathering input from various stakeholders including student and community forums and the formation of a core planning committee. A collaborative design charrette was held to assist the architects in aligning the values and facts of the program. Several ideas were eliminated, and the architects took the important pieces from each potential design model to create a tentative design that encompasses the core values.
The guiding principals of the project are as follows:
- A modern 21st century character that celebrates its unique hilltop setting and views, embracing the legacy and regional heritage of Allegany High School;
- Open and inviting interior spaces that maximize natural daylight and transparency, while controlling energy efficiency, safety, and security;
- A variety of student-centric spaces and common areas that allow for a full-range of activities and showcase students' work and talents;
- Flexible and adaptable learning spaces that utilize integrated technology and accommodate a variety of teaching methods;
- A variety of engaging outdoor spaces for athletics, student gathering and activities, and environmental learning;
- A sustainable design approach that combines energy conservation, value, and resource management; integrating these core values throughout the building and curriculum as an educational tool.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new school on May 23, 2016. The school is on track to open in the fall of 2018.