By: Rachael Pacella
The vision for a renovated Dulaney High School came into focus last week at a Baltimore County Board of Education meeting.
The preliminary design, which was completed by Baltimore-based architect, Design Collective, was presented at a special meeting held prior to the board's regular Aug. 9 meeting by senior associate and Dulaney project manager Scott McGovern.
County school officials are proposing a roughly $38 million renovation of the 52-year-old school, which is slated to be substantially completed by August 2019.
Some parents have raised concerns about the renovation, saying they would prefer the county build a new school to replace Dulaney High. Advocates for a new school have argued that the renovation would not go far enough in remaking the 1960s-era building into a modern facility. In addition to Dulaney, the school system is completing renovations at Patapsco, Lansdowne and Woodlawn High Schools.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has said that replacing the schools instead of renovating them would not be economically feasible. In July, Kamenetz said in a statement that the work being completed on the three high schools would be up to the standard set at Pikesville High School, which the county renovated in 2014.
McGovern's presentation included a preliminary layout for the renovated building as well as watercolor renderings showing key aspects of the project, such as the school's entrance, media center and classrooms.
The school's main entrance leads into a lobby, but the renovation plan foresees an entrance that will have a secure vestibule, funneling visitors into an office.
"The entrance to the building is both problematic from a security standpoint and also from an identity standpoint — it's very hard to find your way around the campus," McGovern said.
Currently, a canopy shades the entrance to the school; that entrance would be enclosed in the renovation. The new entrance would also have "Dulaney High School" written prominently on its side.
McGovern described Dulaney's existing media center as "aseries of small rooms and areas that really are past their functional life."
Those walls would come down, according to the preliminary design, creating a more open library with sections for group work, casual reading, and research and circulation, among other spaces. The openness of the new space would allow for multiple uses at once, McGovern said.
"The media center will be a more flexible environment," McGovern said.
In addition, the library's bookshelves would be on wheels, allowing school staff to change the configuration of the room as needed.
Classrooms at Dulaney also would see a notable change. Room-spanning windows consisting of uninsulated single-pane glass, which cause problems with heat and glare, would be replaced by insulated windows. Hanging lights in classrooms would be replaced by LED lights.
The classrooms would be "brighter, more welcoming, more efficient and [have] better usability for the instructors and students alike," McGovern said.
The project also would replace the school's roof and install a new sprinkler system and HVAC system, which would include air conditioning. Interior and exterior water piping and lighting also would be replaced, among other changes.
Design development will be complete this December, after which the project is scheduled to go out to bid. If the board approves the bid, the notice to proceed is scheduled for April 2017.
The design presented Aug. 9 is preliminary, said Pete Dixit, Baltimore County Public Schools Director of Physical Facilities.
At the end of the presentation, school board member Kathleen Causey, who represents the third councilmanic district, which includes Dulaney, said she has heard concerns from the community about the school's capacity. Last school year, Dulaney's enrollment was 1,851, according to Baltimore County Public Schools. The school's capacity is 1,984.
"Has there been any discussion about how to add student capacity?" Causey asked.
The subject of enrollment capacity is a separate discussion, Dixit told Causey.
In a follow-up interview on Aug. 18, Dixit said that the design for Dulaney, as well as the three other county high schools that are scheduled for renovation, did not consider the loss or gain of students.
"The capacity utilization of high schools is still under review," Dixit said, adding that the plans for Dulaney are not yet finalized.
An Aug. 16 post to the Facebook group "Friends of Dulaney High School," which has served as an online forum for some Dulaney parents, restated frustration about the decision to renovate rather than rebuild the school.
Dulaney High School PTSA President Hope Mims said she wanted to study the proposal before commenting.
The presentation is available online at www.bcps.org/construction/dulaney.
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