Brunswick High School in its first year of operation, circa 1966. (Brunswick History Commission (2020))
Brunswick High School in its first year of operation, circa 1966.

Brunswick History Commission (2020)

Brunswick Residents Call On Board To Prioritize Rebuild

Roaders Demand Answers As To Delay

February 25, 2023

Members of the Brunswick community turned out in force at a Board of Education meeting on Wednesday to voice their frustration at the current timeline for replacing the aging Brunswick High School. 

Since opening its doors in 1965, Brunswick—the oldest high school in the county—has seen only three enhancement projects, with the latest coming in 1993. Apart from site improvements, the only modifications to the facilities include two modest expansions of the vocational wing in 1979 and 1982, and the 1992 addition of a large gymnasium. The building has not undergone a major renovation in its lifetime. As a result, Brunswick lacks spaces required by current FCPS policy, such as a TV studio, wrestling room, chorus classroom, and online learning labs.

Since opening its doors in 1965, Brunswick—the oldest high school in the county—has seen only three enhancement projects, with the latest coming in 1993. […] As a result, Brunswick lacks spaces required by current FCPS policy, such as a TV studio, wrestling room, chorus classroom, and online learning labs.”

Additionally, a feasibility study conducted in 2019 found that Brunswick High was rife with code violations, in noncompliance with ADA accessibility requirements, and in need of several major replacement projects, including a new roof to stop significant water intrusion documented throughout the building. The study also noted the presence of asbestos in classroom floor tiles, potential lead paint hazards, and rodent and pest issues. 

During public comment, the board heard powerful testimony shedding light on these circumstances.  

Parents of children with disabilities spoke out against insufficient accommodations, while one commenter cited an incident in January of this year in which a fire detection system that triggered a school evacuation failed to alert the fire department, leaving students stranded outside for close to an hour.  

Growing pressure to address these inadequacies and serious health and safety concerns posed by the building’s condition led the board to approve a plan in June of 2019 to construct a brand new school by 2024.

Construction on the $96 million rebuild—originally slated to begin in 2023—was significantly delayed by the board’s adoption of its ten-year facilities master plan in 2020, which stipulated that the design phase begin no earlier than the 2028-29 school year. The current scenario puts the completion of the project in 2033, well over a decade after the feasibility study concluded that the state of the sixty-year-old building necessitated an intervention. 

Outcry in the community at the delay culminated in the city council’s formation of the Brunswick High School New Build Committee earlier this year. The group, comprised of advocates who first pushed for the rebuild, hopes to convince the board to reprioritize the approved scenario in its 2023 facilities plan or during budgeting sessions in the spring and summer. 

The committee points to difficulties organizing during COVID-19 as part of the reason the board was able to make drastic changes to the plan in the first place without encountering significant opposition. 

Veronica Hatch, a member of the group since its inception, lamented this reality. “We feel like the board sent the message that if we turn our backs, they’ll undermine our progress.” 

As a result, the committee intends to maintain a presence at all board meetings for the foreseeable future until officials move to address the issue.

Chairperson Hope Bonanno stressed the importance of a student presence at the meetings and underscored the effectiveness of conveying the everyday school experience at Brunswick. 

“It’s vital to have student advocacy at the Board of Education meetings.”

The new build committee has also raised concerns over the 850 student capacity rating outlined in the approved plan, which they feel does not accurately account for expected growth in the area when projecting enrollment. 

Bonnano believes this capacity rating will make it harder for Brunswick to receive the resources it needs to function equitably. 

“To be comparable to the other high schools in the county, Brunswick needs about a 1000-student rated capacity so it can offer more robust educational programs and have more teachers allocated to the school,” Bonanno said. 

Most of all, the committee is still searching for answers. 

“It seems unconscionable that the board would find this delay in keeping with their mission of equal access to education,” Hatch said. 

Board members have cited funding issues and more urgent needs at other schools as justification for the postponement, including projects to alleviate overcrowding and critical facility conditions at the two elementary schools in the Brunswick High feeder pattern. Officials recently broke ground on the construction of a new Brunswick Elementary, while plans to replace Valley Elementary are in the design phase. 

New Build committee member Vaughn Ripley also points out that more schools have recently petitioned for facility upgrades in addition to these projects. 

“Other schools have joined the call for rebuilds or renovations, and now we have those to compete with as well,” Ripley says. 

Continued efforts to expedite the rebuild of Brunswick High School come as the board voted Wednesday night to move forward with an overhaul of the Middletown campus, including a new high school and a co-located elementary and middle school. 

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