The smiles, handshakes and congratulatory comments at the ribbon cutting for the new Showell Elementary School on Monday belie a tumultuous beginning roughly seven years ago when the project was tested routinely on a pass-fail basis and endured several time-outs.
When the talks between the Worcester County Board of Education and the Worcester County Commissioners began in 2014, the only thing the participants could agree on was that the school with trailers for classrooms on Route 589 near Ocean Pines needed to be replaced.
Beyond that, it was a matter of money, as is always the case whenever want runs up against need, and passion meets politics.
School officials, who wanted the best of the best for their students and staff, initially envisioned a $54 million-plus facility. Even though that was later cut down to $43 million, the county commissioners steadfastly refused to go above $37 million and change.
The school’s estimated cost even became a campaign issue in the 2014 county elections, as commissioner candidates pledged not to raise taxes to finance the project, and maintained there had to be a better way to build it for less.
The negotiations between the school board and the commissioners, along with project planning and reviews, went on for three years before the first shovel of dirt was turned in September 2018.
As it turned out, however, these debates, the commissioners’ steadfast refusals and the board’s stubborn insistence somehow came together after a series of compromises.
The result, as those in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony know, is a facility that does more than satisfy everyone. It’s an accomplishment of which the commissioners and the school board can be proud.
And so what if the ceremony was a year late? Given all that preceded the school’s construction, everything seems to have worked out just fine.