Past Meets Present As Odenton Elementary Turns 100

April 29, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

The way Bill O'Hara remembers Odenton Elementary School, there were four rooms, eight teachers and 10 students in his graduating class.

That was 1925, and by then the school already was 33 years old.

On Saturday, the 81-year-old Gambrills man returned to his old school, now in a new building, to help celebrate its 100th birthday.

And he took a representative of the new generation with him: his 12-year-old great granddaughter, Kathleen O'Hara, who just graduated last year.

O'Hara said he was an Army brat when he first arrived in Odenton -- his father worked at Fort Meade. But the family settled down and he hasn't left the area since. It's a good thing, too, considering his favorite teacher bypassed the subject of geography.

"We had math all morning and grammar all afternoon," he recalled. "We neverlearned anything about geography. He never figured we would go anywhere."

That may have been shortsighted, especially since the teacher was in a school that would end up serving the fastest growing part of the county.

"A wonderful place to grow," said Robert Hooper, who has taught at the school for 28 years, quoting the slogan of Saturday's celebration. "The first day I taught school here, teachers didn't need a teaching degree -- they just needed a degree. That was me.

"At least I had a classroom," he said, reminding those who gatheredSaturday afternoon that many teachers taught in the multipurpose room or on a stage in the auditorium. Pay in Hooper's early days of teaching was $4,600 a year.

The school, in the heart of Odenton's historic district, opened in 1892 and originally was called the Academy. In 1921, the school was moved to its present site next door because the two rooms couldn't handle the influx of students.

Addition after addition was built, including annexes, auditoriums and libraries. The final renovation began in 1989, and students were sent to MacArthur Middle School for two years. What stands now is a state-of-the-art learning institution with computer labs and a library -- now called a"media room."

"We have to make a promise to these kids to make sure they get the best quality education our tax money can buy," said Council Chairman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville. "We can't do it alone. We can do it as a neighborhood. We can do it as a community, and we will do it as a county."

"Since 1892, the Odenton Elementary School has been at the heart of its community," said Cheryl Wilhoyte, the school system's assistant superintendent for instruction. "From a one-room school house, the past has met with the present to prepare for the future."

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