Superintendent supports keeping middle school in Chestertown

ROCK HALL — At its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, the Kent County Board of Education is supposed to vote on the location of a proposed new middle school to serve students in grades five through eight.

Since 2010, when middle schools in Chestertown, Rock Hall and Galena consolidated into a single building, Kent County Middle School in Chestertown has served students in grades six through eight.

Prior to that, middle schools in Kent County were for grades five to eight.

According to the agenda for the Monday, Oct. 9 meeting, Superintendent Karen Couch is recommending option No. 2: build a new structure on the current 15-acre campus in Chestertown.

The board’s vote will be taken during the open session, which begins at 6:30 p.m., as part of the superintendent’s report under the agenda item of “feasibility study.” 

Board of education meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the school system’s central office at 5608 Boundary Ave. in Rock Hall. 

Initially there were more than a dozen scenarios involving location and grade configuration, including an option to renovate the existing building — which was constructed in the 1940s as a high school for Chestertown area students — that has many structural deficiencies and does not meet 21st century educational standards.

At its July meeting, the five-member school board unanimously narrowed the choices from five to two: a new building on the current campus (option No. 2) or a new building adjacent to Kent County High School in Worton (option No. 4).

The cost is roughly the same for either, about $55 million.

It has been estimated that new construction in Chestertown would take about 24 months.  The new school would be built where there are currently playing fields, at the lower end of the property fronting Rolling Road. Once the new school is built, the existing one would be demolished, and the playing fields would be rebuilt where the existing school currently sits.

New construction in Worton would take about 18 months. 

After the school board narrowed the options to two, Superintendent Couch presented a list of pros and cons for each option and organized into broad categories.  A meeting was scheduled with 21 administrators, principals, teachers and parents to review the list, weigh the importance of each category and rank each option. 

This information was shared with the school board at its Sept. 23 retreat, and can be found on the Kent County Public Schools website under the tab for Kent County Middle School project.

Community input has been an integral part of the planning process for a new middle school.
Online surveys were shared with the community on options for the middle school and listening and community input sessions have been held.

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