Board members hear public comment from Brunswick students during March 8th meeting (FCPS Board Docs)
Board members hear public comment from Brunswick students during March 8th meeting

FCPS Board Docs

Board Moves Forward With Plan To Review Brunswick High Replacement Timeline

Brunswick Students Detail Experiences During Public Comment

March 27, 2023

At a Board of Education meeting on March 8th, members voted to review options for accelerating the replacement of Brunswick High School, a project first approved in June of 2019 but subsequently delayed by over a decade. 

The vote comes amid mounting pressure from advocates in the Brunswick community who’ve packed recent board meetings as part of renewed efforts to lobby FCPS officials for an expedited rebuild. 

Following close to an hour of public comment and updates from FCPS Chief Operating Officer Paul Lebo on the status of school facilities, Board Member David Bass made the motion to further explore the reprioritization of Brunswick High. 

According to the motion, FCPS staff must present the Board with options by June of 2023, whereupon it will review and vote on whether or not to include the rebuild in the upcoming Educational Facilities Master Plan. 

The motion carried with the support of Board President Sue Johnson, along with members Karen Yoho, David Bass, Rae Gallagher, Dean Rose, and Nancy Allen. Board Member Jason Johnson voted against the proposal. 

Students from Brunswick High turned out at the meeting to offer their insight into the ongoing process, and share how the building’s condition has impacted their learning experience. 

The following are remarks delivered by Brunswick High students Jacob Winter, Isaac Hatch, and Paige Trendell during public comment. 

Public comment delivered by Jacob Winter:

Good evening members of the board, Dr. Dyson, my name is Jacob Winter and I’m a senior at Brunswick High School. Throughout this evening, and at previous meetings you have heard striking testimony from members of the Brunswick community, including parents and teachers, and now students, shedding light on the impermissible circumstances at Brunswick High.

I can say with confidence, however, that in my four years of high school it’s become apparent that young people at Brunswick are not empowered, they do not enjoy the same opportunities or receive the same access to equitable education as other students in the county precisely because they are victims of circumstance.

— Jacob Winter

This testimony has provided an important window into the inadequacies and absurdities that students and staff face daily at Brunswick, but in the time that I have tonight I’d like to step back and provide an overview of the situation, by outlining and reminding the Board of the promise made to each and every student attending public school in Frederick county.

On their website, FCPS states that it’s their promise to ’empower young people regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances,’ something which ‘depends on the opportunities our schools guarantee.’ I can say with confidence, however, that in my four years of high school it’s become apparent that young people at Brunswick are not empowered, they do not enjoy the same opportunities or receive the same access to equitable education as other students in the county precisely because they are victims of circumstance.

FCPS goes on to lay out a three point mission in pursuance of this promise, with the first point being to ‘Reach students with exceptional teaching and caring support.’ This is being accomplished at Brunswick High, but only because the teachers we’ve been able to retain go above and beyond the call of duty to compensate for the failings of the present situation. Teachers who are as frustrated and embattled as the students, who spend money out of their own pockets to jury-rig classrooms so they’re fit for teaching the curriculum, and who are forced to modify lesson plans to accommodate the insufficient resources available to them.

But some issues run deeper than what can be provided for at the individual school level, and when it comes to the second point of the FCPS mission, ‘challenging students to achieve their potential,’ Brunswick students have simply missed the bus. At Brunswick High, students are challenged, not by rigorous courses or exciting programs, but by wholly inadequate learning conditions. Classrooms are undersized and cramped, temperatures vary widely due to inadequate heating and air conditioning, and many spaces required by FCPS specifications are simply nonexistent in the building, including but not limited to a transitional education classroom, an online learning lab, a career center, and collaborative learning spaces. And this is to make no mention of the health and safety risks that the building poses, including the presence of hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead, as well as dysfunctional fire and security systems.

“Lastly, FCPS promises to prepare students for success in a global society. But how can any student subjected to these conditions possibly be prepared to succeed outside the classroom when it’s so hard to succeed in it?” 

Jacob Winter (senior)

In looking back, the promise of public education was not fulfilled to me by FCPS during my years at Brunswick High School, but I sincerely hope that the Board will reaffirm their commitment to this promise by choosing to act now. By the time the new school is complete, according to the current schedule, it will have been 14 years since a feasibility study concluded that the condition of the building necessitated an intervention. This is intolerable. 

Even though I will not get to enjoy the benefits of receiving an education in a building that is safe, adequate, and equitable, I cannot sit idly by while another 10 years worth of students are denied this promise. Can you? I urge the Board to take whatever measures necessary to expedite the rebuilding of Brunswick High School before 2033.

Public comment delivered by Isaac Hatch:

“Good evening members of the board, my name is Isaac Hatch and I am a senior at Brunswick High School. As a student who has spent the past four years in this deteriorating school, I am here today to voice my concerns with the safety and well being of my classmates and your constituents.

The various violations in our building are readily apparent to each student from the moment they start their day. The brick walls are crumbling, the asbestos tiles are broken, and the mercury light fixtures in the ceilings are falling. This deterioration is not a matter of aesthetic appeal, but a threat to both the safety and health of students and a critical threat to the County which is exposed to legal repercussions.

As the day progresses, students move from one class to another, struggling to focus on their studies while dealing with the constant distraction of fear that at any moment another key system of the facility will malfunction, requiring an evacuation—an interruption of learning that Brunswick students are all too familiar with…

…in our disconnected ‘vocation’ building, students are forced to use a rug to prop open the door to gain access to their classes. This reality creates an unsafe environment, as anyone can enter the building without notice, putting students and teachers in danger.

— Isaac Hatch

Teachers at Brunswick also face significant challenges in providing an adequate learning experience for students. As the school fails to provide basic technology like access to outlets in rooms, teachers are forced to spend their own money on cobbled solutions. I have seen one teacher buy as many as 14 extension cords to get power to their projectors, and even then, the outdated outlets can’t handle the load, resulting in frustrating and often ineffective lessons. This disadvantaged learning experience is not acceptable for any student.

During the pandemic, with an increased urgency of handwashing, students at Brunswick used and still use spring loaded sinks, where continual contact is needed to keep the flow of water. This makes it impossible for proper washing, because students cannot wash the filth from their hands which festers on the levers of the sinks. 

Isaac Hatch (senior)

Furthermore, in our disconnected ‘vocation’ building, students are forced to use a rug to prop open the door to gain access to their classes. This reality creates an unsafe environment, as anyone can enter the building without notice, putting students and teachers in danger. This lack of basic security measures is unacceptable and further evidence of the flagrant neglect and disregard for the safety and well-being of Brunswick students.

The County has promised equitable education for all students but, the senselessly derelict squalor of our school has impeded this promise. As students at Brunswick High School, we feel neglected and ignored. We deserve better, and we demand better…

I implore the school board to take immediate action and allocate funds for the reprioritized rebuilding of our school. This is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Our school violates modern building codes, and it is time for members to wake up from their comatose indifference and fulfill their duty to facilitating equitable education.

If I have said something today that you agree requires immediate resolution, please—if able—stand with me. If you believe the daily threatened safety of Brunswick students does not require resolution, please. Remain sitting.”

Public comment delivered by Paige Trendell:

“Good evening everyone, I am Paige Trendell, a student at Brunswick High School. I’m sure Jacob, Isaac, and everyone else has done a great job explaining why Brunswick needs to be rebuilt through facts, statistics, and evidence, but I want to enlighten you on how an average student at Brunswick feels. How it feels to be an afterthought, never anyone’s top priority.

But what’s not fair is different students in the same school system not having the same opportunities.

— Paige Trendell

I’m on Brunswick’s academic team. Every Friday through January and February, I get to spend my evenings in the glorious Frederick High. There’s no overflow gravel lot, the sink faucets don’t need to be constantly pushed in order for water to come out. In fact, everything in the bathroom is automatic. Looking past what I see attending an academic team match creates an even larger sense of inequity. Every classroom in Frederick High has an ‘interactive panel,’ and the library is home to rooms and areas of various sizes for students to study and work in. To put it in perspective, Brunswick’s has four rooms (if you can even call them that), that each fit on person, and a larger one that’s essentially a conference room. I’m not saying its not fair that Frederick was rebuilt and has all these things. In fact, I’m glad it was. But what’s not fair is different students in the same school system not having the same opportunities.

Paige Trendell (junior)

Brand new Frederick High is not the only school with more resources and amenities than Brunswick. Every year, our orchestra goes to a different school for adjudication, all of them with nicer music rooms than Brunswick. Why do Tuscarora’s and Middletown’s students deserve a better music education than me? Why am I at a disadvantage in learning just because the school l go to isn’t important enough for the county’s concern? 

I understand that rebuilding Brunswick has been pushed due to other schools overcrowding, but that can’t be the only reason to build new schools. Just because there are less people in Brunswick, doesn’t mean we (the minority group) don’t deserve the same resources that new schools built due to overcrowding get. If schools continue to be built on the basis of student population, Brunswick High School, and it’s technology, will fall farther and farther behind.

I know these are feelings and not facts. But in a way, feelings are facts. They are real and valid. The county’s affect on the citizens and students of Brunswick is real and valid. In the end, you can dismiss me as a little girl whining about life not being fair. My school experience not being equitable. But if there’s anything in my life that should have fairness and equity (something FCPS has put lots of effort into trying to achieve) its an educational environment.”

Resources:

  • Upcoming opportunities to speak at the Board (All meetings are held on Wednesday’s at 6 PM):
    • April 19
    • May 3
    • May 17
    • June 14
    • June 28
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