Three new Howard County public schools are undergoing last-minute preparations for the first day of school.
After nearly three years of construction, Burleigh Manor Middle School, Elkridge Elementary, and Forest Ridge Elementary will open Aug. 31, the first day of school. School administrators will welcome visitors during Open House on August 24 and 30.
"We're thrilled," said Mary Jane Mitchell, principal of Elkridge Elementary School. "It's a beautiful building."
The new Elkridge Elementary at 7075 Montgomery Road, where workers are installing new playground equipment and a stage curtain, will replace the 1936 building about three miles away.
The old building will be used as a "safety valve" in case the student population increases more rapidly than expected, said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent of planning and support.
Workers are installing carpet and classroom partitions in Forest Ridge Elementary at 9550 Gorman Road.
At Burleigh Manor, 4200 Centennial Lane, workers are putting the finishing touches on the hardwood gym floor and installing hallway lights.
The new schools are necessary because the system expects to enroll between 1,300 and 1,800 new students each year for the next three years, said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the Howard County Public School System.
A combination of new housing and a baby "boomlet" is forcing the system to build new schools, officials said.
"The minute we think we're ahead of the boomlet, we have a boom in building," Ms. Caplan said. "We're seeing growth all over."
School officials are seeing population growth in north, northeastern and southeastern Howard County where large-scale housing projects are under construction.
The new schools will accept students who initially attended Dunloggin Middle School, Laurel Woods Elementary School, Hammond Elementary School, and the former Elkridge Elementary School, Ms. Caplan said.
The schools cost between $6.6 million and $7 million to build, Ms. Caplan said.
The public can inspect the new elementary schools during open house on August 30. Elkridge will be open from 1 to 3 p.m., and Forest Ridge from 2 to 4 p.m. Burleigh Manor will be open at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. August 24.
Next August, the following schools will open:
* A northeastern elementary school in Rockburn Branch Park.
* A western middle school on Route 99 about three miles east of Route 32.
The following schools will open in 1994:
* A western high school on Route 108 and Trotter Road.
* A northern elementary school on Route 144 between Triadelphia and Marriottsville roads.
During the July 16 school board meeting, officials approved design plans for the northern elementary school on Route 144. The 67,455-square-foot building features arches and recessed windows. There are 22 classrooms for pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade.
To reduce the building's intimidating appearance, the classrooms are divided into sections according to grade level, said Tom Spies, vice president of CS&D Architects in Baltimore.
"There are separate instructional pods for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth and fifth grades so it won't be this long, foreboding building," Mr. Spies said of the planned school.
It takes about three years from site acquisition to construction to complete a school, Ms. Caplan said.