David Craig points out a factual error in the address at Havre de Grace High School.
The main office—and everything but the gym, auditorium and performing arts classrooms—are on the odd-numbered side of the street.
He has a vision to change that—and keep the address as 700 Congress Ave. all at the same time.
Craig would like to see a new Havre de Grace High School, one comparable with those he’s seen built around the county in his time as county executive. The former Havre de Grace mayor has reserved a spot in his capital budget for a study on how to replace the aging brick, two-building complex that straddles Congress Avenue.
“I support it 100 percent. I told the superintendent I’m going to put the money in the budget for a feasibility study for Havre de Grace High School,” Craig said in a recent interview with Patch. “I believe it needs a complete tear-down and rebuild.”
The agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting includes a resolution concerning the promotion of a magnet program at Havre de Grace High School. Included in the presentation, which will be handled by Councilman Randy Craig, is the request for facility upgrades. Randy Craig and fellow Councilman Mitch Shank, both Havre de Grace High School alums, have been meeting regularly to work on a presentation for a new school.
David Craig, Randy’s father, sees Havre de Grace as the perfect fit for a performing arts magnet program.
“The school board has talked in the past about engineering. I think it needs to be a performing arts magnet,” the county executive said. “The reality is, the smartest kids in the school would go to that. The kids that would go to a performing arts program usually outshine even the kids at the math-science.”
While most of the infrastructure at Havre de Grace is in need of a complete tear-down-and-rebuild in Craig’s opinion, he thinks the existing auditorium is one of the best arguments for having a performing arts program in Havre de Grace.
“The auditorium is really the best auditorium in the county,” Craig said. “If the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra says it's the best one by size and acoustics, it’s the best one. You don’t have to tinker with that, but it does need to be modernized.”
Craig thinks Havre de Grace has the right ingredients in terms of personnel—namely choral director David Tramontana and band director Richard Hauf—for the performing arts magnet.
“We have the personnel,” Craig said. “But I also believe ... you should have a drama teacher, a dance instructor. It would be the full range of it. You could also teach kids stage production, the lighting part of it, the sets. All that other stuff that comes along with it has to be done. My hope is that within four years, we get a new building, with a magnet program.”
The magnet program would be the icing on the cake.
First comes a new building.
“My feeling is, spend the money on the gymnasium and the auditorium and that area, and refresh it, get it all right, make it energy-efficient. Use the grounds much better,” Craig said.
He would suggest the cafeteria and main offices be relocated in the upgraded auditorium and gymnasium building—officially becoming 700 Congress Ave. in the process.
Then, in his vision, the three-story classroom building would be demolished. Portable classrooms would be set up on the old football field during construction.
“I figure $55 million, I’ll put it in the budget,” Craig said.
While Craig certainly has a personal interest in the project—being a Warriors alum, and currently a resident of the same street as the school—it also falls in line with his theory that “education is the economic engine.”
“Having a good high school is the key,” Craig said. “Parents, when they come, want to know where their child’s going to go to high school. Yeah, when they’re 8, 9, 10, they’re concerned about elementary school. But they’re mainly concerned with where they’re going to go to high school. And the appearance of our building is bad.”
A local history buff, Craig runs down the number of times the school has been remodeled, dating back to its origins on the site a century ago.
Craig sees it as time Havre de Grace High School joins the new millennium.
“When we built Bel Air High School, and Patterson Mill High School, and Edgewood High School, we put about $10 million in the technology inside the building,” Craig said. “I got blasted for building ‘Taj Mahal schools.’ They’re not 'Taj Mahal schools.' They are 21st century schools with 21st century technology to allow our children to compete in a 21st century economy.”