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New city elementary school plan sent back to committee

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Although some members wanted to push a decision on the location for a new John Kerr Elementary School forward, the city school board voted to send one recommendation back to a planning committee for analysis.

All members except for N. Randolph Bryant and David Heglas voted in favor of having the project steering committee further investigate the best location of the new 650-pupil school, which could be built on the existing property or a 10-acre lot south of Sacred Heart Academy and west of Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens.

"This is a project that is already 10 years old," Bryant said, noting that construction at the new site might pose a few practical issues. "... If [the entrance road] comes out [U.S.] Route 50, I think that's a catastrophe waiting to happen... might as well build a baseball stadium out there too."

Many of the officials agreed that building a school at the new site has its perqs but it would cost at least $3 million more than the projected $20 million needed for the existing site project.

"There are some distinct advantages to the Meadow Branch site," said Executive Director Kevin McKew. "The things that keep coming home, though, are the things that are outside our control."

"A new site has a lot of benefits, but we don't have the time to wait ... and our costs are going to continue to go up," Heglas said.

Vice Chairman John Bishop said he's not sure which of the options would be best, mostly because he doesn't have a concrete timeline for when the project might receive funding. But he agreed that something needs to be done as soon as possible.

"[John Kerr is] Band-Aids and Silly Putty, and we really need to move forward," he said. "... Frankly, right now, I think it rests in the lap of council."

The school system's budget is also still up in the air, as school board officials haven't received finalized numbers yet from the state or the city.

Staff members have been instructed to bring plans for a balanced budget to the finance committee meeting, which will take place March 30.

At the next school board meeting on April 9, Finance Director Linda Meadows will have to present a balanced budget, according to Superintendent Rick Leonard.

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