Dome OK’d for next high school

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Charles County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to support building a multipurpose dome at the county’s next high school.

The school system will be responsible for finding the funding for the dome since the county commissioners have said they will not fund the project, but will put up their $55.3 million share for the new $97.6 million high school. The dome project is not eligible for state funding.

Roberta ‘‘Bobbie” Wise, vice chairwoman of the school board, explained her support for the digital dome to her fellow board members prior to the vote during Monday’s work session.

‘‘The present students are part of a digital navy,” she said, referring to what she learned during a conference about the ‘‘technology war,” where it is essential for students to be technologically savvy.

And Wise believes the dome ‘‘is the way we are going to have to reach these students raised on technology. ... What a wonderful vision this system has.”

The county’s next high school, which is slated to open in 2011 on Piney Church Road in Waldorf, will have the capacity for 1,920 students.

‘‘I think [Charles County Superintendent James E. Richmond] was right on when he said this is what we will need in the year 2020 to compete,” board Chairman Donald M. Wade said.

The dome is part of the Educational Specification For High School 2011, which must be submitted to the state before funding for construction will be given.

The school board got descriptions of what the domes might be like after school system officials traveled to New York City, Salt Lake City and Atlanta. The school system monies paid for the trips of 15 individuals totaling $11,293 — eight school officials to Salt Lake City for $6,600, four officials to Atlanta for $1,800 and three to New York City for $2,893.

The 4,000-square-foot planetarium-auditorium center will have surround sound, high-resolution graphics and roughly 150 seats that will be able to rotate 360 degrees and have touchpads used as answering devices.

Assistant Superintendent for Supporting Services Charles E. Wineland estimated the price tag for the dome to be $2 million in today’s dollars — but the dome will not begin construction for at least a year and a half.

Richmond told the board he hopes to soon have a visual model or DVD to help show what the dome will look like.

The dome will be used to connect the school to the community to the government and to many other useful resources, he added.

‘‘We have a laundry list of things to do in preparation [for the high school].”

E-mail Jacqueline Rabe at