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 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.

» Read more about the push for a new Havre de Grace High School.

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:

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?!

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. 

Havre de Grace lost a teacher this year, but . 

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 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 and the nearby waterfront.

There is a street. Running through the school. A street. Two sidewalks. Through the school.

OK, we've got that down, right?

When  was still in use, the gym was close to the stadium. No longer.  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 —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 and the ?

What's a small address change? I see 700 Pennington Avenue is available.

The Havre de Grace community hasn't had a school built since 1967 when the middle school was built.

Most recently,  was renovated.

Since Havre de Grace High School was built in 1955, the communities served by schools in , , Edgewood, , , Joppatowne, North Harford,  and  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: "."

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 's turn.

TELL US: Where do you see Havre de Grace High School coming up short? Leave a comment.

Dontworry Aboutit August 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I'm sorry to say, but being a baseball coach and editor of an online news feed do not "uniquely qualify" you to critique the effectiveness of a learning environment. I'm not trying to say you can't have an opinion or to completely discredit you, because you do make some good points, but some of your facts aren't quite accurate. There is a camera with a live feed to a television in the main office that is monitored at all times. Throughout my time as a student at HdG, I saw maybe 3 people walk through the campus during class change and they seemed more bothered by us than we were by them. Students do not cross 2 streets to get to the track for gym, only one. And the new Harris stadium isn't even the primary outdoor facility. For most activities, we go to Tomahawk or Old Harris. There is AMPLE parking in the student parking lot, few students park on the street and those that do, do it by choice, not out of necessity.
Sean Welsh August 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I suppose what I was getting at was: I've seen the school from the inside view off-and-on for the better part of 15 years. Thanks for reading. Is anyone planning to speak at tonight's meeting? Sean
Phil Powell August 20, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Sean, I was a temporary emergency soccer coach for 13 years... The water in the gym was discolored all the time. We would let it run for ten minutes and it didn't clear up. We ended up going into the cafeteria to get water... Water duty was not fun... Keep up the good work... never mind the " nay sayers" their passion for our community has just not peaked.
Phil Powell August 20, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Sean, I neglected to add, I will not be speaking tonight. A plan has been made and we will see it duly executed. As a life long resident of Havre de Grace and a 1975 graduate of Havre de Grace High I will offer my full support and assistance and speak at a subsequent meeting if called to.
ams August 20, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Sean, your article is well stated and all points are valid. I agree with you a thousand percent. I went to school there, my husband went to school there, our families went to school there, and now our child goes to school there. Your facts are completely accurate, and "Dontworry Aboutit" obviously hasn't been to the school much. My child has had several things stolen and the cameras didn't help. I have just walked into the school many times so the "camera with the live feed" isn't working. Anyone can walk in at any time. More times than not, cars do not stop when kids are crossing over Juniata for gym and sports events. There is also a lot of congestion when there are events and parking is terrible. As a parent and community member I think you are perfectly qualified to critique the effectiveness, but someone who lists themselves as "Dontworry Aboutit', obviously doesn't. Better school=better community or should I say Quality (or even decent) school=better community.
Hollee Sifford August 21, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Wll I feel pretty qualified to make this statement...I have graduated two children from HHS and I work there 5 eve. a week...Seans points are VALID...As far as tcrossing from harris Field back over to the gym/band room after sporting events it is VERY DANGEROUS!!!I have at times actually stood in the street to make sure the teams both home/visitors can cross safely..should I do that..NO..but sometimes yo have to er on the side of caution...Please understand me when I say thisA NEW SCHOOL is a welcome thught and I hope the turn out this eve. was overwheling I would have been there but...I WAS WORKING AT HHS getting it prepared for the students and staff arrival:)
Hollee Sifford August 21, 2012 at 03:52 AM
please excuse my spelling mistakes long nite at work :)
Andrew August 21, 2012 at 11:47 AM
So a street runs through the campus? So what. Its not like it's an in-use thoroughfare that students need to navigate like when they, say GO TO COLLEGE. UMD, TU, UB and yes, even HCC all have roads through the center of campus that are used every day before, during, and after classes. You want a real world practical lesson for teens/young adults? Don't get hit and don't run over anyone. Worried about Juniata Street crossings? Build a pedestrian tunnel (at 1% of the cost of a new school or less) and keep the kids off the streets. The students cross at random locations so its not like motorists have any consistency during class changes. Parking? Non issue. Restore the street level spaces at all times on Juniata and Pennington = problem solved. I went there myself and so have my four children and while I think a new building is in order, the upgrades needed to HHS are more along the line of program and personnel, not structure. The new principal is a good start.
Andee S August 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I just graduated from HHS, and all these points are extremely valid. Crossing the street isn't really a safety issue--no one drives through there, and we all know how to cross a street safely by now. But it can present a health issue! I have had to walk outside in the freezing cold, or the rain, or whatever. I tried to be prepared, but sometimes you expect the weather to do something different than it actually does. The building itself is what needs the upgrade. Students learn to live with crossing the street and parking and whatnot. The school is just plain crowded. I took the "long" ways to get to class often, because they were usually shorter. Like Sean said, we were built in 1955. They just upgraded the lights and sound in the auditorium last year, but that doesn't count too much. It's like a pacifying gift. Huge cockroaches, spiders and other bugs were common occurrences in classrooms, the library, the cafeteria, stairwells, and hallways. It was disgusting. To sum all that up, we need a new school. Not just for all of the reasons Sean and everyone else stated, but because of this: what student, in their right mind, would take pride in a school like HHS?
Curtis Coon August 22, 2012 at 02:03 PM
There is an old saying that a Church is not a buiilding but rather the people who worship in it. So is a school not a building but the persons, and program going on inside. Yet, the facilities should, to the extent possible, render the opportunity for maximum success. And from what I can see, HdG has been "making do" long enough. We need not only a better, modern and clean facility, but also advanced programs so that the brightest and best of our city don't need to go elsewhere in order to obtain -- dare I say it -- scholarships -- to top universities and colleges.
Monique Watson August 22, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I agree with Andee the street in the middle isn't a big deal to students. Its more of a communal area for kids to take pictures after pep rally, skateboard before and after school throw a football or two and simply stay in. one general area. Congress Ave.serves as HHS version of a boll that a college would have. People sit and wait for rides, enjoy the sun, and pretty much take a break from the stuffy building. maybe getting a new school could provide an actual landscaped and enclosed boll that would serve the same purpose as Congress Ave.
loren lust October 03, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I can't tell you how many times in my 4 years the air condition broke, like non exisitant. The textbooks are falling apart, along with the ceilings, the desks and the computers. The 2nd floor classroom (Spanish when I went there) across from the boys bathroom floods. The ceilings leak through out the building. The lockers will pop open if you kick them. The foods room could use a nice upgrade. Not mention the various bugs and critters. Even though there's cameras at the front door they arent very effective, I skipped a lot in high school and was never caught once.. even after the cameras were installed. If I can get out unnoticed than people can get in. As for the sidewalks and main street in the middle of the campus. I've been hit on, asked for a cigarette, a lighter, a dollar, etc. Frequently on my way to gym. I went to summer school at Aberdeen high and its heaven compared to hdg. And for the love of god when they remodel can we get a damn darkroom all I wanted to do was photography my whole high school experience.


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