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Thurmont Primary addition
could start this summer

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(12/8) Plans to add 13,500 square feet to Thurmont Primary School are now 60 percent complete, a county school official told Thurmont residents Tuesday night.

Ray Barnes, director of Frederick County Public Schools Facilities Services Division, spoke at the town’s public meeting. He said the Frederick County Board of Education has submitted funding requests for the $6 million additions to Thurmont Primary to both the county and the state and is pushing to start construction in the summer. Funding is uncertain, however, and the project could get pushed back to summer 2007.

With 459 students, Thurmont Primary is now at 106 percent capacity (416 students). The additions will extend the school’s capacity to 600 students.

The additions will be at the back and at the right of the building, and would add 12 classrooms to the school that will be used for kindergarten, general purpose, art and music classes, Barnes said. The project will also add overflow parking spaces by connecting playground areas to driveways, and will update the school’s health suite.

The school has seven full-day kindergarten programs this year, and was built to house six half-day kindergarten sessions, Principal Debra Myers said.

The school also has four portable units this year, up from three last year. The portables house three second-grade classes and a special education resource room.

Projected enrollment figures for next year show 133 students coming into kindergarten at the school next year, making it the largest kindergarten class in the county. With 147 students going into first grade, the school will remain at 106 percent capacity next year.

When Thurmont Primary was designed, the county promised it would fund an addition in a few years if the town accepted a smaller building to start, Mayor Martin Burns said.

But, under the county’s current capital improvements plan, the project is not funded until fiscal 2008, which means that construction would not be able to start until the summer of 2007, Barnes said.

The county’s willingness to fund the project a year early will depend on how much money is available in the county budget to fund new projects in fiscal year 2007, and how much of that money it is willing to dedicate to school construction, Barnes said. The Board of Education is also asking the county to fund the construction of Oakdale High School in Lake Linganore and for an addition to New Market Elementary School in the upcoming year.

Construction of Oakdale High would cost at least $65 million, Barnes said, and this project is the Board of Education’s top priority, because Linganore High is currently the most overcrowded school in the county.

The state’s willingness to contribute to the project in fiscal 2007 will also play heavily into whether the county funds the project a year early, Barnes said. If the county sees that the state contributes to half the project in the upcoming year, the county will be much more likely to pay for the additions.

The project has planning approval from the state now, Barnes said, but the state has not allocated much money to school construction in the past few years.

The Board of Education is hoping that the state will take its requirement for all Maryland schools to offer full-day kindergarten into consideration, since this state requirement has contributed in large measure to the current overcrowding problem at Thurmont Primary.

Local support for the project is another key factor in getting county and state funding, Barnes said. Burns said he would draft a letter of support from the town for Barnes to present to state officials during a preliminary hearing regarding the project next week, and asked town businesses and residents to show their support for the project by writing to county officials.

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