By Kim Walter
Land has been purchased for a fourth high school by Frederick County Public Schools.
The 83-acre property, which is a portion of Fort Hill Farm, is located immediately to the east of Evandale Elementary School and Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School. It was purchased for $2,075,000.
Superintendent David Sovine said the division has evaluated more than 10 different properties over the past three years as potential locations for the fourth high school.
Detailed evaluations were completed for eight sites, but Sovine said that the Fort Hill Farm property is the best selection.
"Due to its prime location, superior topography and direct access to public roads, the land that has been purchased will cost less to develop than each of the other seven properties that were evaluated in detail," he said.
The School Board's capital improvement plan for 2014-2019 will undergo review in the coming weeks. Currently, it calls for construction on the new high school to begin in July 2014, with the school opening in the fall of 2017.
A school board training session is taking place this Friday, and the annual review of the capital improvement plan will likely begin during that time.
Steve Edwards, coordinator of policy and communications for the division, said last year the School Board decided to move the opening of the fourth high school back a year -- from 2016 to 2017.
"With high school enrollment expected to remain relatively flat for a few more years, the board may decide to again adjust the timeline for the project," he said.
The 2015-2020 capital improvement plan will be adopted prior to the end of this calendar year.
Sovine said locating the fourth high school adjacent to an elementary and middle school will afford the school system certain "educational advantages and annual operating savings."
The existing telecommunications infrastructure can be shared between the three schools, and buses will have to travel shorter distances, resulting in savings, he said.
"The campus concept, where several schools are located in close proximity to one another, works well and provides students with additional learning opportunities," Sovine added.
Edwards said the campus concept is in use at several locations -- James Wood High School and Apple Pie Ridge Elementary; Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle and Evendale Elementary; Millbrook High School and Redbud Run Elementary are a few examples. Additionally, the new Frederick County Middle School and the current Gainesboro Elementary School will offer a campus concept.
"The site that has been purchased is the best location for the school and offers the most economical total project cost," he added.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org