Golden Mile Alliance


Proposed Boundaries for New Butterfly Ridge Elementary Won’t Fix All Overcrowding Problems

March 23, 2017 / / News

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Frederick News Post
Thursday, March 23, 2017

A new elementary school in west Frederick, meant to ease overcrowding at area schools, won’t completely erase the problem.

The proposed attendance boundaries for Butterfly Ridge Elementary School, as endorsed by the superintendent, were presented to the Frederick County Board of Education Wednesday.

Superintendent Terry Alban’s recommendation comes after months of extensive meetings in which district officials sought public comment.

The district will pull students from Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools to fill Butterfly Ridge, and shift students at other elementary schools around to balance enrollments. A little more than 1,200 elementary students will move from one school to another.

The new attendance area border starts with U.S. 40, separating it from the Waverley Elementary district. Some previous Hillcrest neighborhoods were pulled into Butterfly Ridge, as well as some rural, open areas down to Mount Zion Road.

Butterfly Ridge, along with a second new elementary school, Sugarloaf in Urbana, is planned to open in the fall of 2018.

Even with the new school, district staff members believe that in 2018-19, at least five elementary schools will be over capacity, which is determined by the state: Orchard Grove, Tuscarora, Valley, Waverley, and Whittier elementary schools.

Waverley in particular is estimated to be quite crowded after Butterfly Ridge opens, at 157 percent of its state-rated capacity. The district plans to renovate Waverley, possibly building an addition within five years.

Board member Colleen Cusimano said during the meeting she was surprised that Butterfly Ridge would open far below capacity — about 82 percent.

Several county-approved developments are underway in the attendance area for Butterfly Ridge, Beth Pasierb, the district’s supervisor of facilities planning, said. The district wanted to leave wiggle room for future students, she said.

Staff members could have shifted more neighborhoods from Waverley to Butterfly Ridge to help bring down overcrowding at Waverley, said Chief Operating Officer Paul Lebo. But that would have sharply bumped up the percentage of impoverished students who would attend Waverley.

A temporary move from some Waverley students to Butterfly Ridge was suggested until a Waverley addition is constructed.

Parents were adamant that the district, in redrawing, attendance lines not exclude low-income students or create pockets of poverty, a point with which district officials agreed.

“I think it’s a disadvantage to continue to run a school that’s at 157 percent capacity in the hopes of watering down the poverty impact,” Cusimano said. “It’s not even a struggle for me, if there’s some way to relieve the numbers. I think it creates some safety issues. I think it creates educational challenges to pack that many students into a building that isn’t made for that many people.”

The district anticipates that about 58 percent of students attending Butterfly Ridge will use free or reduced-price meals at school, a mark of poverty.

Butterfly Ridge will likely join the county’s Title I schools, which enroll a high percentage of students on free and reduced-price meals and are entitled to additional federal dollars for initiatives like after-school activities or more teachers.

This redistricting will reduce or remove portable classrooms at some schools, a peeve of parents who say outdoor classes pose safety concerns for students.

Hillcrest Elementary will no longer need any of its current 20 portable classrooms.

Lebo said fencing is being constructed at Waverley around the existing portables, a response to community feedback.

The school district is trying to cope with soaring populations in some areas, like Frederick and Urbana, while schools remain underused in others. There was an unexpected influx of more than 650 students this year. The district has accounted for nearly 500 more in the next school year.

Vice President Liz Barrett has called for a more comprehensive countywide study, including a look at vastly underused schools.

The idea hasn’t gained traction with board members before, but some seemed to warm to it Wednesday night. Board member Mike Bunitsky wholeheartedly agreed with many of Barrett’s points. Others, including the student member, went along Bunitsky, but with caveats.

“I certainly will not make the mistake I made my first year on the board and talk about closing schools, but I will talk about how we can use the space that we have,” Barrett said.

Cusimano said in a later interview that she supports a countywide redistricting. However, she said the process is complicated by new regulations on students who want to attend schools other than where they’re assigned. She said students should be allowed to attend other schools, so wiping the map clean and redrawing all of the lines is almost a “suggestion.”

In the Butterfly Ridge redistricting, contractor Cropper GIS Consulting assisted the district, specifically in developing and analyzing maps. Cropper was paid about $30,000, Pasierb has said.

Representatives from Cropper will appear at a school board meeting in May — the same month the board is due to decide on new attendance areas.

The district will hold three more public hearings on the redistricting proposal in March and April.

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Butterfly Ridge Elementary School will have Community Recreation Center

February 25, 2017 / / News

By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Frederick News Post
Saturday, February 25, 2017

The new elementary school in western Frederick will be constructed with a large gym and recreation center operated in part by the city’s parks and recreation department.

Members of the Frederick County Board of Education favored including in the plans for Butterfly Ridge Elementary School such a center, which often functions as a hub for the community. Similar centers are dotted around Frederick County at other public schools, but the board said it has struggled with surging costs of constructing schools, and so it was unclear whether it could add the oversized gym.

Brad Ahalt, senior project manager with the school district, told board members that the school system had found cost savings because the design of Butterfly Ridge had been replicated before, like the new North Frederick Elementary School, and built.

“The contractors have performed the work before,” Ahalt said.

Ahalt noted that bids for Sugarloaf Elementary School — the new elementary school being constructed in Urbana, with the same design — had been distributed right before Butterfly Ridge. Contractors were able to adjust their bids when they lost out on Sugarloaf Elementary, Ahalt said. In some cases, the contractors who bid the highest on Sugarloaf bid the lowest on Butterfly Ridge — winning the contract, he said.

The gymnasium and recreation center will be managed by the city of Frederick Parks and Recreation Department and school administrators. Other centers are run through a partnership with the county’s parks and recreation department. The total expected cost of the center is $668,703.

The center, a 7,233-square-foot space, includes additional gym space and an activity room.

City Alderman Josh Bokee (D) had particularly pressed for the center and the oversized gymnasium. He said in a Friday interview that such a recreational facility doesn’t exist on the west side of the city, and so “it’s great news” it is being built.

“It’s going to be a great resource for the community,” Bokee said.

Both new elementary schools are due to open in 2018. Butterfly Ridge is expected to ease overcrowding in west Frederick.

The district doesn’t intend to use Sugarloaf as a new school right away, rather the plan is for Urbana Elementary School students to transfer into the new building while the school system knocks down and reconstructs Urbana Elementary.

The school district has estimated that Butterfly Ridge will cost roughly $46 million, and Sugarloaf will be about $40 million.

On Wednesday, the board approved seven contracts related to Butterfly Ridge, totaling a little more than $28.5 million. Of those contracts, $517,000 is dedicated to construction of the oversized gymnasium.

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Frederick Towne Mall Site Sells for More than $6 Million

February 25, 2017 / / News

By Mallory Panuska, Frederick News Post
Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Frederick Towne Mall site has sold to a local company.

The West Frederick Center LLLP, a limited liability limited partnership that formed Jan. 26, purchased the 37.35-acre, Golden Mile site with plans to “revitalize the property,” according to an email a representative of the company sent Friday.

“The West Frederick Center, LLLP, is currently exploring ways to revitalize Frederick Towne Mall and service the broader Frederick community,” the email said.

Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin, a Frederick urologist, is listed as the resident agent. Several partners, both general and limited, are part of the company.

An attorney representing The West Frederick Center said Friday he did not have time until Monday to comment on the sale or answer questions about plans for the site.

Dave Severn, an attorney representing property owner Rockwood Capital, said the property sold a week ago Monday for more than $6 million.

Members of the Golden Mile Alliance, a community organization created to foster growth and development in west Frederick, discussed the sale at a meeting Tuesday. The subject also came up at a Neighborhood Advisory Council 5 meeting Thursday.

Deb Reynolds, co-president of the Golden Mile Alliance, said Friday that she contacted Mohiuddin to welcome him to the area and offer him any assistance he and the other partners may want or need.

“I left a message that we were the advocacy group and welcomed him and said I’d like to talk to him about ideas,” Reynolds said.

She added that the group does not really have an opinion about what is developed at the site. She said members are just excited about everything happening in and around the Golden Mile and plan to help the new owner in any way they can.

“It’s a private property. I think people tend to forgot that,” Reynolds said. “I don’t really think we have a preference of what we would like to see go there, not to say we don’t care what goes there, because we do. It’s just so new in the process we really don’t have a comment about that right now.”

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said Friday he was aware the property had been sold and knows who the new owner is but has not had any conversations with him or seen any plans.

The mall has sat vacant since 2013, but Boscov’s and Home Depot continue to operate at the site.

Rockwood Capital had planned to demolish the former mall at 1301 W. Patrick St. and construct a four-building shopping center with a 155,000-square-foot Wal-Mart anchoring the project. But Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal at the beginning of September, and the owner put it up for sale in December in an online auction. The minimum bid was $2.5 million.

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Frederick Towne Mall Site Sold to Frederick Doctor

February 24, 2017 / / News

By Mallory Panuska, Frederick News Post
Friday, February 24, 2017

The vacant Frederick Towne Mall site has officially sold.

Dave Severn, an attorney representing property owner Rockwood Capital, said his client told him the Golden Mile property sold a week ago Monday to Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin.

Mohiuddin is a urologist with a practice in Frederick.

Severn said he believes the property sold for more than $6 million.

Members of the Golden Mile Alliance discussed the sale at a meeting Tuesday. The subject also came up at a Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting Thursday.

The property has sat vacant since 2013. Rockwood Capital officials planned to demolish the former mall at 1301 W. Patrick St. and construct a four-building shopping center with a 155,000-square-foot Wal-Mart anchoring the project. Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal at the beginning of September.

Boscov’s and Home Depot continue to operate at the site.