Schools get soundproofed near BWI State-federal plan muffles jet noise

September 27, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

In recent years, Oakwood Elementary School in Glen Burnie observed a moment of silence at least twice a day. On some days, it was at least twice an hour.

But no more. Beginning this month, education won't grind to a halt when an airplane soars overhead on its way to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Nobody will hear the planes go by.

The school is one of four located near BWI and soundproofed under a federal and state program designed to promote peaceful coexistence between airports and their noise-frazzled neighbors.

Though the work at Oakwood had been completed by the start of this school year, a ceremony tomorrow morning will make it official.

It's made a new world out of the school which was built in 1956.

"It's a new climate. It's almost like a vacation," said guidance counselor Pat Barton. School staff find they are more patient and productive because they are not bombarded by noisy interruptions, she said.

"We estimated we were losing about 15 percent of our instructional day with flyovers," said Mike Raible, director of planning and construction for the county's public schools.

But now, Oakwood's noise level has been reduced by three-fourths, a preliminary study shows, said Meg Andrews, manager of the Maryland Aviation Administration's schools soundproofing program.

Speech and language therapy teacher Patricia Flood said classrooms used to be so noisy that she resorted to moving therapy groups into hallways.

"The windows rattled. It was very distracting for the kids -- I have kids who are very distractable anyway," she said. "They were constantly looking outside. And I would look too, to see how low the plane was."

She recalled what happened when she read to a group of preschoolers during a time when a plane flew by every few minutes: Not one child paid attention to the story.

But this month, she said, she has found her young charges able to focus on their work and responding better to her. And discussions do not center only on airplanes.

Fifth grader Dusty Dzambo, 10, recalled the frustration of being nearly finished with a math problem, only to have a jet engine roar shatter his concentration.

"I had to figure it all out again," he said.

January brought the start of soundproofing construction to Oakwood. The school's ceiling tiles were replaced with insulated bright white acoustical tiles. Chairs don't squeak as they slide on the old linoleum floor tiles -- those are covered with carpeting. Blue sound-absorbing panels form a wall border by the ceiling. There are fewer windows, but the remaining ones also provide soundproofing.

And there's air-conditioning the county school system paid $100,000 for, so windows can remain closed even during hot weather.

"The only noise we had was when she [a teacher] opened the window and an airplane flew by," said fifth grader Melissa Dennis, 10.

Oakwood and Glen Burnie Park Elementary are the last two schools to be soundproofed. That work cost $2.9 million, 80 percent of which was paid by the Federal Aviation Administration; the balance by the MAA.

The other schools soundproofed were Corkran Middle School, where $2.7 million in soundproofing was finished in August 1990, and Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School, where noise abatement costing $2.2 million was completed in June, MAA officials said.

Other noise-reducing programs aimed at homeowners who live in BWI's noise zone such as government-funded soundproofing of homes and a "Noise Hot Line" are continuing, said airport spokeswoman Adrienne Walker-Pittman.

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