On Broadneck Peninsula, students adjust again to switches in schools Renovations, new classes among changes this year

September 14, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

A game of "musical schools" ended on the Broadneck Peninsula last month after a high school and two middle schools that shared space for a year while they underwent metamorphoses reopened in markedly different forms.

To accommodate a $24 million overhaul of Broadneck Senior High in Cape St. Claire -- turning it into a four-year high school with new arts, athletics, science and computer equipment -- about 1,000 students spent the past school year at Severn River Junior High, 3 1/2 miles away in Arnold.

To make room in their building, the junior high students doubled up at adjoining Magothy River Middle School, operating on split sessions, which students called inconvenient.

A bigger, brighter Broadneck Senior High reopened with an added 13,000 square feet, 38 new teachers, a new wing of classrooms, more science laboratories, a dance studio, a gym, a weight room, soundproof music practice rooms, a ceramics studio, $850,000 in new computer equipment, a greenhouse for a new botany course and its first freshman class, with about 500 students.

Thirteen-year-old Charis Jones ran for a spot in student government, sang in the chorus and familiarized herself with the new building, where couples embraced in quiet alcoves, band members rehearsed in the new practice room and others sat at desks in classrooms for after-school clubs.

"The new section is very bright," said 16-year-old Heather Kolb, a senior who said the new building is better than the old one. "They have real windows, where Severn River had plastic ones you couldn't see outside. We have a lot of new high-tech stuff, the chemistry rooms have been updated, and we have TVs in every room."

"It's beautiful," said 17-year-old Tia Williams, the senior class president. "It's more space here." She said she likes the way the decor -- lockers and hallway paint, for example -- matches the school colors, gray, maroon and white.

Own identities

Meanwhile, students at Magothy River and Severn River middle schools were striving for their own identities. This year, both schools have new principals and will have sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders -- a switch from previous years.

Until the end of the past school year, Severn River was the state's last remaining junior high. This year, it makes its debut as a middle school, and students are coming up with new school colors, choosing a mascot and adjusting to a new system of team teaching.

"The whole idea of middle school is having a group of teachers working together for the benefit of the same group of kids," said Severn River Middle's new principal, Carolyn Burton-Page.

The students are grouped in seven teams of 120 to 140 students. All team members have the same language arts, social studies, science and math teachers.

Next door, Magothy River is adjusting to having its own building again with a new principal, Dixie Stack, and 686 sixth- and seventh-graders.

In August 1995, Broadneck Principal Linda B. Blackman headed a task force of parents, students, teachers and administrators that came up with the plan that moved Broadneck students into Severn River Junior High.

The masons, cabinetmakers, carpet-layers, electricians, builders and painters moved into the Broadneck building a year later.

"Pretty much most of my teachers had their own classrooms" at Severn River, Blackman said. "We decided it's not a building that makes a school, it's the people that are in it. So it was OK we were down the road."

Not all students agreed.

It was "not fun," recalled Heather, who plays piccolo in the band and wants to be on the softball team. "It's sort of like, 'We're back here again.' "

She said that teachers couldn't decorate the classrooms or unpack all their supplies, and that fans had to go to Anne Arundel Community College to watch basketball games.

Magothy River Middle got its first shift of Severn River Junior High school students between 7 a.m. and noon. Then an entirely different population of younger Magothy River Middle students and their teachers came in to use the same classrooms, library, gym, and cafeteria until 5 p.m.

XTC To manage both sessions, at least 10 minutes were shaved off each class period, lunch break was reduced to a 10-minute snack time, and the interval between classes was shortened.

The early students caught buses in the dark, information left on blackboards for one class confused the next class if it wasn't erased and, because there was no time between sessions, crowds clogged doorways.

"You couldn't get extra help from a teacher [after school]. You'd have to come at like 5 o'clock in the morning," said Jordan Rathlev, 14, who attended the early session and was a student member of the task force. After a typical day, he said, "most of the time you went home and slept."

Finished early

That ended in August, sooner than expected. Work at the high school was completed earlier than expected, in July instead of December. A mild winter and careful planning helped get the job done early, Blackman said.

Now that Broadneck Senior High is complete, except for a few boxes that remain unpacked and walls that need paint touch-ups, "it's better than going to Severn River," Heather said. You feel like you're home."

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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