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.
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.
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.
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.
By Brandi Bottalico, Frederick News Post
Friday, January 27, 2017
Frederick County Public Schools staff members are considering two options for who will attend Butterfly Ridge Elementary when it opens in the fall of 2018.
The options would affect about 15,600 students.
Option 9 would move almost 1,500 elementary, middle and high school students from one attendance area to another. Option 10 would move almost 2,100 elementary, middle and high school students from one attendance area to another. While the latter option affects more students, it would better address overcrowding at Waverley Elementary.
District staff members have hosted several public meetings before making a recommendation to Superintendent Terry Alban at the end of February. Alban will present the recommendation March 22 to the school board, which will vote on a final plan in June.
Facilities Planning Supervisor Elizabeth Pasierb said the district could recommend either option, a combination of both or a new idea.
Almost 20 colorful maps were taped to folded-up cafeteria tables at Orchard Grove Elementary on Thursday night in the fourth meeting on the two options. The maps outlined how the 10 elementary, five middle and four high schools included in the study could be affected in each option.
The staff anticipates Butterfly Ridge Elementary School students would be primarily from the current Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools. But the study area also includes schools in adjoining areas, Pasierb said.
Parent David Simon said Option 10 was better than the other because it was more comprehensive and would address more than just overcrowding at Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools. The purpose of the study was to look at overcrowding at those three schools.
“My driving factors are equitable distribution of students and broad-based redistricting,” he said.
Under Option 10, Simon’s daughter, who is in kindergarten, would stay at Orchard Grove Elementary. In Option 9, she would move to a new school.
While looking at the options, the district has to consider factors outlined in a Frederick County Public Schools policy that include educational welfare of students, frequency of redistricting, walkers, student demographics and feeder patterns.
The number of students who would be within walking distance of their schools is almost even in the options. Option 9 shows that about 3,069 students live within walking distance, defined as a mile and a half. Option 10 shows that about 2,966 students would be within walking distance.
There were more changes to the elementary school level in Option 10. Middle schools also saw more shifting. The idea was to keep as many elementary school students together as possible in the same middle school, Pasierb said. No recommendation can address all of the factors equally.
“We want to try to eliminate as many split feeders as we can,” she said during the presentation.
Hillcrest Elementary School had 1,139 students in its attendance area in 2016-17, but has a capacity recommended by the state of 670 students. In Option 9, about 794 students would live in the area zoned for Hillcrest Elementary School. In Option 10, about 729 students would live in the area that is zoned for the school.
About 726 students lived in the Orchard Grove Elementary School attendance area this school year, but it has a capacity of 639. Option 9 would reduce the number of students living in the Orchard Grove attendance area to 542. Option 10 would reduce the number to 602.
About 731 students lived in Waverley Elementary School’s attendance area. The school has a capacity of 416 students. Option 9 would reduce the number of students living in its attendance area to 600. Option 10 would reduce it to 588.
Simon, a former Frederick News-Post editor, said it would have been better to bring more schools into the study. The construction of a new school is an opportunity to look at how attendance areas are drawn overall and address issues that have been happening for a while, he said.
“If you don’t look more broadly, you just kick the problem down the road,” he said.
The district did take into consideration housing developments that will affect student enrollment later and the planned addition to Waverley Elementary School.
Pasierb said the district also has to consider what is allowed for bus times for students if it were to consider schools farther away.
Having a study on a larger scale would have taken longer, maybe even a year, she said, and the district needed to have Butterfly Ridge open in the fall of 2018.
The district will need one year to plan for the opening after the final option is chosen.
Orchard Grove Elementary School Principal Shirley Olsen said that through the whole process, the district has been thoughtful. Nothing is final, so parents at the school haven’t had many questions about what it will mean, she said.
“I think a lot more questions will come,” she said.
Orchard Grove Elementary School parent Rene Shuler said she prefers Option 9. Her child wouldn’t have to change schools in that case. Because he receives special education services, it would be more difficult to switch to another staff that doesn’t know him, she said.
“We have a different set of circumstances,” she said.
Shuler said she went to a meeting in October before the options were narrowed to what was presented Thursday. She thinks the school system has done is handling the process well.
“They have done a great job of communicating,” she said.
By Brandi Bottalico, Frederick News Post
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Frederick Towne Mall is up for auction online.
A live auction runs Dec. 6 through 8 on the internet auction site Ten-X.
The minimum bid is $2.5 million.
There is an undisclosed reserve price, said Mike Besack, a spokesman for Ten-X’s commercial division. In general, a seller agrees to sell a property when bidding reaches the reserve price and does not have to sell the property if the reserve is not met.
The Frederick Extra first reported news of the auction.
Frederick Towne Mall has sat vacant since 2013. Property owner Rockwood Capital 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.
Rockwood Capital considered selling the property or continuing with the project if another retailer stepped forward to replace Wal-Mart, but there was no interest in a replacement project, said Dave Severn, attorney for Rockwood Capital. The decision to auction the property was made about 30 days after Wal-Mart pulled out.
“I think we’ve known from the get-go that Wal-Mart was really the only tenant possibility,” he said. “[The online auction] is a nationwide approach to selling property,” he said.
After investing what Severn estimates is likely millions of dollars in the property, Rockwood Capital has made it clear it is very interested in selling the property, he said.
“We’re hopeful that someone buys it who is willing to move forward to get it redeveloped,” Severn said. “I think everybody wants to see something positive happen there. The current owners — I think they’re just exhausted at this point.”
The property is 46.1 percent leased by local and national tenants, according to the Ten-X listing. Boscov’s lease expires in November 2023. The second-largest tenant, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, has a lease that expires in August 2021.
Home Depot is an anchor tenant.
The property is listed as having about 639,000, with nearly 520,000 rentable. The parcel is 37.35 acres.
Justin Kiska, president of the Golden Mile Alliance, said the sale is just the next step and they had been expecting it after news of Wal-Mart pulling out.
“It was just a matter of when and how,” he said. “This just means that somebody with fresh ideas will come in.”
He said real estate auction sites seem to be the way many big properties are sold now. The alliance will wait to see if it’s a national or local buyer.
“I would hope it would be somebody who isn’t just looking for a tax break but somebody who is going to come in and recognize the potential of what that type of land has,” he said.
By Jeremy Bauerwolf, Frederick News Post
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The public will learn in January which Frederick neighborhoods might attend a new elementary school being built in the western end of the city.
Frederick County Public Schools intends to unveil at least three choices of attendance boundaries for Butterfly Ridge Elementary School, Ray Barnes, the district’s chief operating officer, said on Monday.
The school system plans to open Butterfly Ridge by 2018 to alleviate significant overcrowding in other city schools, namely Hillcrest, Waverley and Orchard Grove elementary schools.
Though the district will accept feedback on all of the options, only one will be presented to the Frederick County Board of Education as the superintendent’s recommendation. The district hopes the board would approve a plan by June 2017 to allow a full year for bus routes and more to be developed, Barnes said.
The redistricting process can be arduous. Families often feel deep loyalty to their home schools and have many questions, Barnes said in an interview.
To that end, the school system has held a number of meetings at the schools primarily affected by the boundary changes, including one on Monday night at Tuscarora Elementary School that was sparsely attended. Fewer than 10 people braved the chill to hear a presentation on Butterfly Ridge.
Earlier meetings were more crowded, with up to 30 people, Barnes said.
At the recent round of meetings, parents and the community were presented with large maps of the city and the surrounding area on which they could create their own school attendance boundaries.
This is the first time the district has tried an interactive activity, Barnes said. It has yielded mostly written comments, but a few have delved into the nitty-gritty of shifting students around, he said.
Parents are concerned with issues such as which middle or high school their children will attend. The district first needs to establish the elementary school boundaries before seeing how they will influence the middle and high schools, he said.
At a previous meeting in late September, parents were worried that minority and low-income students, primarily at Hillcrest and Waverley, would be excluded from the new school.
Butterfly Ridge, which will accommodate 725 students, will be on Butterfly Lane opposite McCain Drive, in the current Orchard Grove attendance area.
The system has said it will seek to avoid creating pockets of poverty in the community while also following Frederick County Board of Education policy.
By Ryan Marshall, Frederick News Post
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Frederick officials hope a new tunnel that will let bicyclists and pedestrians travel beneath U.S. 15 on Rosemont Avenue will help connect the west side of the city to downtown.
The tunnel under the southbound ramps onto U.S. 15 opens on one side to a black asphalt path leading up to the sidewalk on Rosemont Avenue. It opens on the other side to a bridge across Rock Creek.
The spot has long been identified as an important gateway between the Golden Mile and other parts of west Frederick to the downtown area, said Tim Davis of the city’s planning department.
“This was the connection” needed to bring the two areas together, he said.
The city will hold a ceremony at 5 p.m. Oct. 4 to celebrate the official completion of the $1.7 million project.
Most of the money came from the city, although the state’s Department of Transportation contributed about $330,000, Davis said.
The tunnel connects about 5 miles of shared-use trails that didn’t have an easy connection before, he said.
It will also likely be an economic benefit by allowing people who work in downtown shops or restaurants to ride their bikes to work.
“This isn’t just a recreation facility that we put in,” Davis said.
Lots of people would much rather bike to work than sit in traffic, said Justin Kiska, president of the Golden Mile Alliance, which seeks to foster growth and development in west Frederick.
“It just makes things easier for people now,” he said.
One of the alliance’s main goals has been working on connectivity issues between west Frederick and other parts of the city, Kiska said.
He said anything that can get bikers off main routes is a good thing.
Some members of one Frederick neighborhood would like to see the shared-use path connected to one of their local streets.
The end of Meadowdale Lane in the Rock Creek Estates neighborhood sits only a few dozen yards from the completed trail along the creek.
Residents assumed that a makeshift path used by construction vehicles during the project’s construction would be paved at the end of the process to connect Meadowdale to the shared-use path, said Katie Nash, who lives in the neighborhood.
Today, part of the path is covered with stone, while the rest has green netting over the grass. Nash said she and her neighbors would like some basic asphalt or cement to provide a route down to the shared-use path.
They don’t want to seem like they’re not grateful for the project, but the stones on the makeshift path make it hard for senior citizens, parents with strollers or children on bicycles to get down to the creek, Nash said.
Nash is preparing to speak with the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which is scheduled to meet Oct. 4.
Davis said a connection from Meadowdale was not in the original plan to develop the shared-use path, but the city will discuss amendments to the plan next week for connections to 10 to 12 neighborhoods and activity centers.
The Golden Mile Alliance is currently seeking individuals interested in serving on the organization’s Board of Directors.
The GMA’s Board of Directors is made up of five business representatives from the Golden Mile Corridor, five residents, and five property owners and/or representatives. The Board of Directors is charged with directing the business of The Golden Mile Alliance as set forth by the organization’s By-Laws.
Frederick County Public Schools are inviting parents and community members to learn about the redistricting process to determine who will attend the new Butterfly Ridge Elementary School in Frederick. Construction for Butterfly Ridge will start in the spring of 2017 with a scheduled opening in August 2018.
Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30 p.m.Waverly Elementary School
201 Waverly Drive | Frederick, MD
Thursday, September 29th at 6:30 p.m.
Hilcrest Elementary School
1285 Hilcrest Drive | Frederick, MD