Keeping The Lights On At Brunswick

The Decisions On Architechture In Our County

Attending school at one of the oldest buildings in Frederick County, students at Brunswick over the years have become familiar with 1960s architecture. The design of the school’s main building only allows for one or two narrow windows per classroom, the entire science department with none, as their classrooms are located in the center of the second floor. This also poses a potential safety risk, since from there escape routes are limited. Students at Brunswick are left with systems last updated in 1993 to house them for 6+ hours every day, relying on the diligent upkeep of our maintenance team. As technology continues to advance and improve in efficiency and safety while plans for modernization updates are pushed back further, the faculty, teachers, and students are left to make the best out of remnants of the past. 

In 2016, a study from the Optics Express found evidence showing that natural lighting significantly supports students’ performance in class. Schools recently built in the county focus their designs around getting more natural light to students. Frederick High School, recently rebuilt with modern updates in 2018, keeps the students living environment as well as its own history as focuses of its new design. 

It is my opinion that a new building like this would be the best option for Brunswick as well. Possible health risks such as asbestos could be uncovered and exposed to the students during partial renovations. This was the option voted on in a 2019 FCPS Board of Education meeting. Following the Facilities Condition Index (FCI), the building is classified as poor. They would be starting from scratch on the site’s current soccer fields, with plans for completion around 2024. At the meeting, Ellen Fowler expressed relief over the decision: “I’m happy that we’re going in that direction. It is the best thing for our children, it is the safest thing for our children, it’s the best thing for our community.”

However, in late June after the initial outbreak of COVID-19, another meeting was called to question the plans. The project has since been pushed back to 2029, with priorities placed on Brunswick and Valley elementary schools, which both ranked critical by the FCI. Members of the board cited this financial reasons as one of the deciding factors, seeing as the high school project would cost up to 90 million, while the elementary renovations would both cost less as well as solve pressing overcapacity problems. 

But as the school continues to age and weather, a question of fairness has been brought up. Liz Barrett at the meeting pointed out that the ratings of poor and critical are only a fine line away, and she doesn’t feel comfortable with the delay on the basis of equity. The limited structure of the school cuts down the amount and variety of classes that can be offered. Another member of the meeting who had reservations against the delay was Hope Bonanno, a mother of a student scheduled to attend the high school. She questions: “Is [my daughter] going to have all the things that are available to her that she would in other schools?”