5 Things: Where HHS Comes Up Short
The Harford County Board of Education will listen to public comment Monday on why Havre de Grace residents feel they need a replacement for Havre de Grace High School.
I had home room on the third floor at Havre de Grace High School for four years.
My locker was on the second floor.
Most of my classes were on the ground floor.
I was in damn good shape. Running steps will do that to you.
But I digress.
After spending four years at Havre de Grace as a student, two as a baseball coach and two as the editor of a publication covering the people the school employs, educates and inspires, I feel uniquely qualified to offer an outline of five areas where Havre de Grace High School is obviously underserving the community:
1 » SECURITY
A Patch reader pointed out on our Facebook page that the school's lockers pull away from the walls, allowing for items to be stolen out of suposedly-safe places. This tale, sadly, isn't even a worst-case scenario.
A city street runs through the school campus. Yes, it's closed during the school day. But if someone is determined to do harm, the chains and signs on Congress Avenue aren't going to stop them. Along with that street comes two sidewalks, enabling any Average Joe to wonder onto campus at class change and mingle amongst the mass of students crossing between buildings.
There's also the simple set-up of the buildings, with multipe entrances facing six city blocks. The school's security center—the main office—is blind to the main entrance of the building.
Toss in health, too. Pack that sweater for the first floor, but make sure you've got your t-shirt and your snap-off gym pants over your shorts so you can be comfortable on the third floor.
It is pretty cool, though, that the faucets in the gym fill the water coolers with lemon-lime Gatorade. Oh wait—that's water?!
2 » INFRASTRUCTURE/CAPACITY
Havre de Grace High School isn't over capacity. The Harford County Public Schools website says Havre de Grace is at 91.2 percent capacity (775 vs. 850). So only 75 more students need to attend Havre de Grace for it to be at capacity.
The city has housing projects approved or underway that will capture many of the new residents flooding Harford County.
"Hello, HCPS. This is BRAC 2.0. I'm coming to town with a few hundred of my favorite students. We really like that community by the water. Have room for us there?"
Certainly not in the narrow hallways.
Only Harford Tech (over capacity) and the brand new middle school/high school hybrid at Patterson Mill (50 shy of capacity at the high school) are walking a narrower tight rope of capacity. Check for yourself. Also, the infrastructure is aging. Updating the school might be possible, but to what point? You can keep giving Joan Rivers plastic surgery. Her heart and her bones are still going to turn 80 next year.
3 » PROGRAMS
Havre de Grace lost a teacher this year, but administrators fought to keep all of the high-level programming in place.
Still, Havre de Grace students aren't being offered the same quality of education. Computer lab? It's the classroom with outdated technology in the sauna—er, third floor.
They can't bring a laptop or iPad to school and read Patch during home room. How about some wifi? The need for a traditional computer lab decreases with some modern-day advancements.
Interactive white boards? What white boards?
Havre de Grace loses a significant portion of the school population—the best of the best in most instances—to other schools in the county. Magnet programs have stolen away the top students at Havre de Grace High School.
Havre de Grace would be primed for a few programs: arts, environmental science, history, etc. With the current set-up, strong faculty and results, arts makes sense. Environmental science would be a no-brainer, too, with the impending Lilly Run project and the nearby waterfront.
4 » CAMPUS LAYOUT
There is a street. Running through the school. A street. Two sidewalks. Through the school.
OK, we've got that down, right?
When old Harris Field was still in use, the gym was close to the stadium. No longer. James R. Harris Stadium is the primary outdoor facility for phys ed classes. Students have to cross two city streets to walk the track.
The primary parking lot is at the opposite end from the main entrances to the academic building and the gymnasium.
A new baseball field was built a few hundred yards from the school, but it's not up to par. The Warriors baseball team uses Stancill Field—which requires the JV team to use a bus for home games.
Parking is also an issue. No other school in Harford County is woven into the fabric of downtown city blocks. A paper airplane's distance from the school property is a series of residences. They share street parking with students, faculty and visitors.
The footprint of the school and the parcels of land it sits upon aren't in agreement. The layout of a new school could make better use of the property—perhaps with it more oriented toward Pennington Avenue, much like City Hall and the police department?
What's a small address change? I see 700 Pennington Avenue is available.
5 » EQUALITY
The Havre de Grace community hasn't had a school built since 1967 when the middle school was built.
Most recently, Meadowvale Elementary School was renovated.
Since Havre de Grace High School was built in 1955, the communities served by schools in Aberdeen, Bel Air, Edgewood, Fallston, Harford Tech, Joppatowne, North Harford, Patterson Mill and C. Milton Wright have seen new schools built.
Sure, there's a new stadium—the stadium funded a great deal by the community and built by the community. The county also funded turf upgrades at Bel Air, Edgewood, Harford Tech and North Harford.
So the argument that Havre de Grace was "given" a new stadium recently doesn't hold much water.
I saw a button recently that wrapped it up pretty well: "It's Our Turn."
What about your reasons? I want to hear them.
As a father of two—a daugher who is 4 and a son who turns 2 next month—this issue is of interest to my generation. Not because we see the shortcomings of the current school in comparison to others.
It's because we're trying to determine where to live for the next two decades of our lives.
It may be Havre de Grace's turn—but ultimately, it's the Harford County Board of Education's turn.
TELL US: Where do you see Havre de Grace High School coming up short? Leave a comment.