Ruxton School Moved To Tears

June 11, 1993|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Staff Writer

"Look, look! Up there in the third-grade window. . . . It's the witch!"

And there she was -- in her pointy black shoes and shredded black dress and a white hard hat -- Ruxton Country School's mascot making her last appearance yesterday at the lower school's 80-year-old home on Berwick Road.

"The witch just has to come with us to our new school," said third grader Josh Luxenberg. "She comes to the fall fair, and she's a part of the school."

Chances are good the witch will indeed show up when the school moves to its new 30-acre campus on Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills in September.

But along with students, teachers and alumni, she was around yesterday to say good-bye to the comfortable old house that had served generations of students.

The library books were packed in cardboard boxes. The computers were unplugged and stacked neatly against the wall, and the paint sets were sealed tightly in plastic bags.

With tears streaming down her face, Dorris Cameron, a third-grade teacher reminisced about her 10 years at Ruxton as she signed students' yearbooks and bade them farewell until the fall.

"I have so many great memories of this little school," she said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "We have to leave it, though, because we are bursting at the seams with children."

In the past 16 years, the private neighborhood school has more than tripled its enrollment, from 40 to 133 students, according to headmistress Judith Banker-Barrett. And with a waiting list for the first and sixth grades, the school needs more room to keep growing, she said.

Ruxton's new campus, with a new $1.7 million building, will consolidate the lower and middle schools in one location. Unlike the cramped lower school, the new building will have a multipurpose room, additional classrooms, a large library, central air conditioning and art and science rooms.

L There will also be playing fields and, in the future, a gym.

But teachers, administrators and parents say they're determined keep Ruxton's homey atmosphere alive in the new setting.

"There is something magic about Ruxton -- it hones in on individual needs of students, but still gives them freedom to breathe and think on their own. The Ruxton spirit of caring and creativity will be on the new campus too," said Susie Carr-Menzies, 40, who attended Ruxton and now has a son there.

Ruxton was founded as a private school for the neighborhood in 1913 by Swiss tutor Therese Waelchli, who believed that children learn better in a peaceful, homelike atmosphere with small classes.

Known then as the Blue Bird School, Ruxton took its current name in 1978 and now offers a coeducational program for youngsters from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Surrounded by weeping willows, dogwoods and a brown picket fence, the six-room lower school made its home in a cheery, rambling converted house that was crammed from top to bottom with cupboards, desks and book shelves.

The middle school, founded in 1986, is located three miles from Berwick Road in Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church.

Although the lower school will be renovated into a house again by the former school teacher who bought it, Ruxton supporters plan to keep their memories by burying a time capsule at their new school in the fall.

First grader Nicky Barone said he'd miss the old school's playground equipment.

"I like the swings and the train a lot, so I'll miss those, but the good books and all of my fun friends are coming to the new school," he said. "The classes will be just right -- not too small, not too big, there too. I can't wait to get there."

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