Garrison Forest planning to expand Classrooms to double at lower school

November 13, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Responding to the increased demand for private school education, Garrison Forest School is planning an addition to its lower school that will let it increase enrollment while maintaining small classes.

Using a $1 million gift from an unidentified donor, the 547-student Owings Mills girls' school will double the number of classrooms for first through fifth grades by 1998 and add about 50 percent more students overall.

The donor also has committed another $500,000 to be used as incentive money to encourage other gifts, said Peter O'Neill, the headmaster, who announced the school's latest expansion plans during an open house last weekend.

"We have received a major gift, committed to the lower school," O'Neill said yesterday, declining to elaborate on the terms.

The donor, who is an area resident and reportedly a parent of a Garrison Forest student, will meet with the school's 30-member board of trustees this weekend to work out the details of the gift, the matching money and a new goal for the school's capital campaign.

More details on additional gifts and building plans will be available after that meeting, O'Neill added.

The building plans, coming on the heels of a successful $12 million capital campaign, put Garrison Forest in the thick of the building and fund-raising drives flourishing at many area independent schools.

Independent and parochial schools throughout the area are experiencing record enrollments, and record interest among prospective students. Despite tuitions that range from $4,500 to $12,000 for high schools, these schools frequently have several applicants for every opening.

Earlier this month, Mount de Sales Academy, a Catholic girls' high school in Catonsville, launched its first-ever capital campaign by announcing a $2 million gift that will pay for a new gymnasium.

St. Paul's School for Girls in Brooklandville also is in the midst of a capital campaign for a new gymnasium and fitness center.

And Loyola Blakefield has raised $5.7 million in gifts and pledges toward its $6.5-million Loyola 2000 campaign. The Towson boys' middle and high school recently completed a new chapel and classroom building.

At Garrison Forest, the headmaster told the families attending last weekend's open house that it would be necessary for the school to grow to keep class sizes small.

The school has students in nursery school through 12th grade, and both boarding and day students in grades eight through 12. By adding another classroom for each lower school grade, the school will be able to keep class size small while accommodating more children.

For example, each grade in the lower school has about 20 students. When lower school expansion is complete in September 1998, the school will be able to accept 32 to 35 students for each grade, without increasing the size of the individual classes.

The school expects to break ground for the classrooms in the spring, O'Neill said.

In September, the school, which was founded in 1910, opened a fine and performing arts center. The 12,000-square-foot building, which has photography, art and music studios and a recital hall, was part of the school's recent $12 million capital campaign.

With that money in hand, the board is expected to set a new goal for additional capital improvements at the 100-acre school that stretches along Reisterstown Road, O'Neill said.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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