After Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Tomback recommended demolishing and rebuilding Havre de Grace High School during a meeting this week, the Harford County Board of Education opted to defer a vote on the project.
Parroting prior comments from citizens, Tomback cited "safety, security and administrative challenges" as reasons to move away from the current two-building campus bisected by Congress Avenue in Havre de Grace.
The best solution, Tomback said, is a one-building school laid out similarly to Aberdeen High School, located on what is now a series of ball fields.
Grimm & Parker Architects conducted an assessment of Havre de Grace High School’s safety, current building structure and educational program efficiency, which it compiled into a report called the "scope study."
At the school board's Nov. 5 meeting, Grimm & Parker outlined three plans for the future of the high school, which it developed with input from the "Scope Study Committee"—a group of staff, architects and Havre de Grace residents who reviewed the report.
- Option A: Renovation—Add a new cafeteria to the west side of the auditorium building and an elevated corridor to connect the two school buildings, eliminating the need to cross Congress Avenue during school hours.
- Option B: Modernization—Totally renovate the school with additions and interior adjustments, bringing the existing building up to the proper safety codes. Another option would be to renovate the school plus close Congress Avenue and create a pedestrian path in place of the road.
- Option C: Replacement—Demolish the current high school. Rebuild across the street, with a majority of the fields on the same site.
At the school board meeting, the Scope Study Committee recommended "Option C"—a new building located across Lilly Run, between James R. Harris Stadium and the Havre de Grace Activity Center—as the most suitable for a community that has clamored for an upgrade over the current building at 700 Congress Avenue.
But board members had concerns about the project, which would raise the capacity of the school to nearly twice the current population, at an estimated cost of more than $70 million.
The current facility is 144,000 square feet with a capacity of 850; the new high school would be 225,270 square feet with capacity for 1,148 students.
Robert Frisch, a member of the school board, questioned the necessity. “These aren’t realistic numbers for us,” Frisch said.
The board also questioned whether the school system would be responsible for absorbing some of the cost for revitalizing Lilly Run, the stream that runs through much of the city, including around the footprint of the proposed high school site. Tomback said that the projected cost for the high school did not include any improvements to Lilly Run.
Board of Education President Francis Grambo said he had safety concerns related to the proximity of the train tracks to the proposed location.
“I ... would really like to know how fast the trains travel and what cargo is on board. To me, that is much more dangerous than Congress Avenue,” Grambo said.
Some members of the school board asked whether closing Congress Avenue, which was part of Option B, would even be possible by law and were informed it would have to go through the City Council and a referendum.
The board was scheduled to make a decision based on the report but delayed the action pending further review.
What is your vision for Havre de Grace High School? Tell us in the comments.