New Gaithersburg High on track for 2013
Parents to push County Council to fund school construction schedule
With two crucial steps made last week, parent leaders at Gaithersburg High School are calling on other parents to help on "getting us over the finish line" to replace the nearly 60-year-old building, which a survey by the county school system deemed the high school most in need of modernization.
The county school board last week approved the architectural plan to modernize GHS after dozens of parents worked with an MCPS-hired architect over the summer and fall to hammer out the design and layout.
And County Executive Isiah Leggett's six-year capital construction budget, proposed Friday, lays out nearly $1.5 billion in school construction including the modernization of Paint Branch, Gaithersburg, Wheaton and Seneca Valley high schools. That schedule puts Gaithersburg High's groundbreaking in July 2011 and opening day for the 2013-2014 school year. The school will be built mostly where the parking lots are now.
After two delays to the modernization schedule in recent years most recently in 2008 to save $119 million Gaithersburg school leaders are trying to rally "a sea of blue" to testify before the County Council's hearing on the capital budget on either Feb. 9, 10 or 11. Parents and students have raised a vocal and visible outcry for years, pointing to constant complaints of the cramped spaces, faulty facilities, leaking roofs and run-down equipment.
"They're still trying to hold the building together," said Steve Augustino, coordinator for the Gaithersburg cluster of schools. "... That's a Band-Aid."
Next, parent leaders are asking the school board to expedite the bidding process so that the construction bid is awarded while prices are low because of the economic downturn. They want the project to be put out to bid October or November at the latest, by January 2011.
"The earlier we can bid the project for construct, the cheaper it's going to be," Augustino said.
Pointing to Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville the first high school in the modernization queue, expected to open for the 2012-2013 school year being able to save $30 million by getting its bid out faster than usual, Augustino believes Gaithersburg High can save $25 million.
The new building will hold up to 2,284 students nearly 300 more than the existing 320,000-square-foot facility and will have a "better flow," more centralized spaces and organized outside spaces, including outdoor cafeteria seating, said Laurie Augustino, chairwoman of the high school PTSA's building committee.
"The most important thing, and it sounds silly, is that Gaithersburg High School will have a visible presence on Route 355," she said.