New school displays high-tech design Long Reach looks like it's being built for a corporate park

April 02, 1996|By Diane E. Otts | Diane E. Otts,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The new Long Reach High School might be mistaken for a building in a high-tech corporate park.

The three-story, $21 million building on nearly 50 acres in Columbia's Village of Long Reach is due to be completed by June 30 and ready for students in August.

The centerpiece of the building is a striking three-story common area that rises to a pyramid-shaped skylight.

"It looks like a university -- there is so much space," marveled Teresa Waters, a business teacher from Oakland Mills High School, during a recent tour led by Principal David Bruzga.

The building's flair is matched by a state-of-the-art educational design that includes:

A "cluster" organization that groups classrooms by humanities; science, mathematics and technology; arts and physical education; and ninth-grade classes.

Eight computer labs, including one for each of the clusters, and computers in all classrooms and teacher planning areas.

Facilities that allow for hands-on learning, such as a television production center and a child development center with a nursery where students will interact with neighborhood children.

Visitors to the school also have been impressed by myriad smaller details.

Suzanne Monthie, who will teach computer science at Long Reach next fall, likes the design of her future third-floor classroom and its attached lab. "What a great view," she said, peering out a lab window to the common area below.

Despite the school's namesake and its location right next to the Long Reach Village Center, not all students living in the village will attend Long Reach High School. Some Long Reach Village students still will attend Oakland Mills or Howard high schools.

Nonetheless, Sally Uphouse, Long Reach village manager, said: "The community is excited about the new facility." And Long Reach residents look forward to the return of some sports fields for neighborhood use, because the high school was built on very popular softball fields.

Long Reach High School will open with about 850 students in grades nine through 11, with enrollment projected to grow to 1,400 to 1,600 students within the next four years. Like River Hill High School, also slated to open this fall, no seniors will attend the school its first year.

Along with River Hill, Long Reach will house the technology magnet program -- a new program that integrates academic education with career and technology education.

As a result, Long Reach will draw students from a wide area. About 350 Howard High School students and 200 live east of U.S. 29 will attend Long Reach as part of the tech magnet program.

"We are entering uncharted territory, bringing so many kids from different schools together for a common purpose," Mr. Bruzga said. While he is helping Long Reach to develop its identity, he thinks the school will have strong ties with both River Hill and Howard High.

Mr. Bruzga expects strong ties with River Hill because it is opening at the same time. The two schools already are scheduled to face each other in their first and last football games of the season. But he also noted that most of Long Reach's students share a common history with Howard High.

Although former Howard High students will be in the new surroundings, many things about Long Reach will be familiar. them.

As at Howard, Long Reach will have a four-period day, programs that help ninth-graders adjust to high school and "site-based management," which gives students, parents and staff an opportunity to participate in management.

These features will help accelerate a sense of community in the school. The 90-minute classes will give students and teachers a chance to get to know each other quickly. And the cluster design of the school isolates ninth-graders, allowing them to bond.

The practice of site-based management already has begun to shape the school -- in the form of a series of evening orientation programs, which allow students, parents and others to voice concerns and offer ideas. The most recent program drew an audience of about 75 to discuss Long Reach's philosophy, mission and goals.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Mayfield Woods Middle School and will focus on teachers' approaches and methods of assessing students.

Final decisions have not been made at the meetings, however. "It may take a few months to finalize our philosophy and goals, because I want to give the students plenty of opportunity to participate in the decision-making," Mr. Bruzga said.

And while the school's colors of purple and silver are already set, students will have the opportunity to help choose Long Reach's mascot, logo, school rings, clubs and uniforms.

Meanwhile, the school's administrators have plenty of other details to work on. Assistant Principal Pepe Sandoval has been busy formulating next year's course offerings based on selection sheets that students have completed. "Something that once in a while keeps me a little bit awake is, 'God knows what else is there that we haven't thought about?' though I think we have it pretty well covered," Mr. Sandoval said.

Indeed, much of the school's furniture has been ordered, including 1,500 desks and chairs, and about half of the school's faculty has been selected. But textbooks and computers have yet to be chosen and purchased.

Mr. Bruzga appears undaunted by the dizzying array of details that await completion.

Instead, he is relishing the opportunity to apply his 23 years of experience in Howard County schools -- five as a teacher and 18 in administration -- to help create Long Reach. "It is a principal's dream to start a new school."

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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