Building for the next 100 years Construction booms as private schools look toward the future

June 07, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

St. Paul's School is building a chapel. McDonogh, a field house; Garrison Forest, an arts center.

Science centers are under way at Bryn Mawr and the Park School. And this morning, Boys' Latin will turn the first spades of dirt on a new lower school and library.

With construction at no fewer than eight independent schools, and projects planned at many more, there is a building boom at area private and parochial schools, which are scrambling to make room for the students they already have.

Their Baltimore-area enrollments have increased 45 percent from to 1994.

The schools also are looking to new facilities for a subtle competitive advantage and to keep them on the cutting edge of education, particularly in technology. Almost every project includes wiring for computers and capabilities for networking, online services and interactive learning centers.

"This sets us up for another 100 years of education," said J. Duncan Smith, a Boys' Latin alumnus and trustee whose $4 million gift is making possible the 16-classroom lower school on the south side of West Lake Avenue. The project includes a 34,000-square-foot library for the lower and middle schools, a larger cafeteria and a computer learning center.

The lower school building will replace the Cochran Estate, a 1950s residence that the school took over in the 1970s.

"It's been a great building. We've just sort of outgrown it," with 180 boys in kindergarten through fifth grade, said Dyson P. Ehrhardt, Boys' Latin's development director.

But like most of these schools, Boys' Latin does not plan to increase its enrollment -- now at 516 students -- as it expands its facilities.

At Garrison Forest in Owings Mills, the opening of a 12,000-square-foot art and music building in September will put facilities on a par with instruction, said the girls school's headmaster, Peter O'Neill. "The school has always had a very strong program in the arts, but more limited facilities."

McDonogh, too, is playing catch-up.

Its Rollins-Luetkemeyer Athletic Center, with fitness and wrestling rooms and the equivalent of four basketball courts, can better accommodate the now-coeducational school's 1,170 students than the present field house, which was "built in 1947 for 690 boys," said spokeswoman Mary Anne Brush.

Although the expansions will consolidate departments and open classrooms, no one is denying that they also will enhance the schools' images.

"Admissions is definitely reaping the rewards of the new building," said William Macsherry, assistant director of alumni and development at Loyola Blakefield, which is putting the final touches on a $6.5 million classroom and chapel addition. "People are going to be automatically attracted to it," he said of the new Burk Hall, which is built in the style of other buildings on the Towson campus.

"I don't think we ever sell our schools on facilities alone," said Sarah Donnelly, executive director of the Association of Independent Maryland Schools. But, "I don't think there's any question that makes them more attractive.

Loyola was at the forefront of the building boom with its 50,000-square-foot addition, which was started in 1994 and has been occupied since January. The first project in 40 years for the 850-student boys school is among more than 20 under way or planned by schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"The demographics have shown that there is a need to expand Catholic education in this area," said superintendent of archdiocesan schools Ronald J. Valenti. "But the archdiocese is not in the position to underwrite all of these projects. We have to be thoughtful and creative."

St. Francis of Assisi School on Harford Road wants to add a third floor on its crowded, 40-year-old elementary, providing more space for the library and computer center -- now housed in partitioned areas of the first-floor hall. But the school will go to the archdiocese for a loan "only as a last resort," said the principal, Sister Judith Gallen.

The school and parish -- with about 700 families in Mayfield and surrounding neighborhoods -- began a $600,000 campaign last fall. The school has received pledges of more than $320,000 and is seeking grants and foundation gifts for the rest.

"We've never gone to the community and asked for money before," said Sister Judith, whose school has 265 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. "But this is a changing neighborhood. We want to have something stable. We feel that if make this an even better school, people will stay."

The demands of the new century -- particularly the need to be technology-friendly and flexible -- is affecting most schools.

For example, an expansion at the Hannah More School in Reisterstown will mean more technology and more opportunities for the students, who are seriously emotionally disabled. One wing will be devoted to technology and career education, and will include a television studio and computer-assisted drafting equipment.

This is important for Hannah More students, many of whom do not go to college.

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