Westminster West Middle School marks its 25th anniversary as a middle school this year, and it was overcrowded then and it's overcrowded now.
"Four years after I became principal, we had 1,500 kids in a building built for 1,100," said Victor J. Makovitch, who became principal of the facility in 1965, when it was Westminster Junior High School. He retired in 1988.
This year, the school has "a portable city as part of our campus," said Principal Harry M. Lambert.
One-third of West Middle's approximately 1,300 students are in 12 classrooms outside the Monroe Street building.
Construction workers are completing an addition that will house an auxiliary gym, an additional band room and a new media center.
"There were many years when we were fine," former Assistant Principal L. Thomas Miller said, recalling the past 25 years. "We had plenty of classrooms."
But overcrowding has become a serious problem in the past five years, said Mr. Miller, who retired in 1993 after 27 years at the school.
Sam Brutout, who has taught science at Westminster Junior High and West Middle for 27 years, chairs the 25th anniversary program. He and other teachers have been selling miniature replicas of the school to raise money to buy CD-ROMs for the science department.
Mr. Brutout said retired teachers and administrators will be invited to a faculty dinner and probably to an end-of-year reception to celebrate the school's anniversary.
Westminster Junior High School opened in 1958 under Principal George E. Thomas, for students in grades five through nine.
Dr. Thomas remembers local residents telling him that when the electricians turned on the lights at night in the new school on the hill, "They shone like a beacon."
When William Winchester Elementary School opened adjacent to West Middle in the early 1960s, "The fifth grade went across the grass to William Winchester," Dr. Thomas said. "We had a moving day. The children and teachers and custodians carried desks and books" to the new school.
The ninth grade was moved to Westminster High School a few years later, Dr. Thomas said.
Mr. Makovitch was an assistant principal at Westminster Junior High when he had one of those experiences teachers put into books about their careers.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was performing in the school gym when the sound of an explosion came from a classroom on the floor below the gym.
Mr. Makovitch and former Superintendent Samuel M. Jenness and raced downstairs and discovered that several students had brought a substance containing mercury to school. When they rubbed the substance, the mercury exploded.
The school wasn't evacuated, Mr. Makovitch said, but one student suffered burns in the explosion.
Mr. Makovitch presided over a double middle school in 1975-1976, when East Middle School was closed for renovations and its students attended West Middle.
"We used every room, corner, nook and cranny," he said.
Teachers made West Middle a good school, the retired administrators said.
Some retired members of the West Middle staff meet at a Westminster restaurant for a monthly luncheon.
"West Middle has been very much like a family to me," said Mr. Miller, who organized the monthly gatherings. "We started with four or five meeting once a month and now we have up to 30 people."