Hoover update will be built around addition
New design will group grades together
Plans for a new Herbert Hoover Middle School are moving along as the school community prepares for the design of the new school to be unveiled next month. But "new" isn't exactly the best way to describe the planned facility the structure will be built around the school's most recent addition, built in 1999.
If funding remains on track, doors are slated to open on a new Hoover in 2013.
Nearly a year ago, a feasibility study was launched to solicit feedback about the new facility. The feasibility study committee included parents, community members and Montgomery County Public Schools staff, and met over a period of several weeks. Together, the group identified key goals for the new building that were incorporated by contractor Moseley Architects into the three design options.
The process afforded community members a sense of ownership of the project, according to Dennis Cross, senior facilities designer in the division of construction for MCPS. "Anybody that wanted to voice their opinion certainly had the opportunity to do so," Cross said.
The Board of Education approved an option that left the 1999 wing, and meetings resumed this fall as part of a facility advisory committee to discuss the building's design in more detail, according to Hoover Principal Billie-Jean Bensen.
Based on feedback, the new building will group sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in their own areas. The school, originally designed as a junior high school, currently has classrooms grouped mostly according to subject, rather than grade, Bensen said. The new design will also separate car and bus traffic and allow more space on site for cars to queue. "[The site] can hold many more cars in the loop for parents waiting for their kids to come out, as opposed to backing up into the street," Bensen said.
The building will also solve the overcrowding problem. The school's current capacity is 927, though it enrolls about 1,016 students, according to Bensen. The new facility will bump the building's core capacity to about 1,200.
The total cost of the project, including planning and design, is about $48 million, according to Adrienne Karamihas, a facilities team leader for MCPS.
Had the 1999 addition been torn down, the state would have subtracted the money it put toward that addition from the portion of the new building it would fund, since the new addition was built less than 15 years ago, Karamihas said.
The school community preferred the option to tear down the building and rebuild it anew. That option would have been more energy efficient and provided better flow for students moving within the building, Bensen said. However, most were expecting that the option that kept the wing would likely prevail because of the funding issue, she said. "Everyone was hoping we'd have a whole new building, but [the architects] really have done a nice job with the piece they had to keep," Bensen said.
Janette Gilman, mother of a Hoover sixth-grader and a Winston Churchill cluster coordinator, said that the tear-down option provided the cleanest, most attractive design. But, "in the end, I think the essential thing in both of them was separating the three grades," she said. She also liked that the gymnasium and cafeteria will be clustered, so that community members can use them after school hours without having to wander through the hallways.
Construction funds will be requested from the county for fiscal 2012 through the Capital Improvements Program, Karamihas said, and additional funding will be requested from the state if that's approved. The next facility advisory committee meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10, and architects will unveil their final design at a Jan. 12 PTA meeting.
Gilman said that throughout the process, she felt her voice was heard.
"I was pleasantly surprised initially by how open the process was, and the architects really designed based on what people suggested and people put out there," Gilman said. "I really thought we would go there and have them talk at us, but it's been really participatory."
A presentation of the design for the modernized Herbert Hoover Middle School to the school's PTA will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at the school, 8810 Postoak Road in Potomac. The presentation is open to the public.