Students, teachers begin school again Finally finished, new Meade Heights facility comes to life

September 24, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

When third-graders Theresa, Davon, Makis and Amethyst go to the new Meade Heights Elementary on Fort Meade this morning, they'll watch videos, use bathrooms and store their bags in lockers -- all right in their classrooms.

And when their teacher Sandy Haney has spare time, she'll write lesson plans and correct papers -- not in her classroom, but at an L-shaped desk in a two-person office next door that she'll share with another teacher.

"When you've never had anything, you don't realize you missed it," said Haney, who has taught at Meade Heights Elementary for eight years. "I find myself coming in here, just standing here and saying, 'This is so nice.' I can't wait to get started with it."

Opening of the $10 million, state-of-the-art building in the 1300 block of Reece Road comes a month late after a summer of problems -- including $130,000 worth of modifications to a sprinkler system.

Hanover-based Triangle General Contractors Inc. realized in July that water pressure and flow readings that Fort Meade supplied last spring -- data needed to install a county-required sprinkler system -- were way off.

As Triangle workers changed sprinklers to fit new readings, the Anne Arundel County school board pushed for the old school to reopen temporarily. So when classes started Aug. 25 in the old building, built in 1952, about 200 students learned with the "bare bones" of school supplies, and no air conditioners or fans, Haney said.

Meanwhile, Triangle workers built a pump house to boost the water pressure and modified sprinkler piping inside the building.

Thursday, students checked out their new digs, including 19 classrooms -- some with science labs, a media center and a gym with a carpeted floor. Their reactions: " 'Ooh' and 'ah' and 'Isn't it nice?' and 'Do we really get a TV?' " said Principal Scott L. Doran.

"I didn't hear one person say they were going to miss [the old building]," Haney added.

On Friday, Monday and Tuesday, students stayed home as teachers and movers emptied the old building and filled the new one with books, furniture and supplies, and teachers decorated their classrooms.

On Monday, the building passed the county fire inspection, and yesterday, the school received a permanent occupancy permit from the county Department of Inspections and Permits, according to Jack Leone, president of Triangle.

Only students from Meade Heights will attend this fall, but in the 1998-1999 school year, at least 150 students from the neighborhood of Spring Meadows in Severn will also attend, Doran said. The school was built to accommodate 500 students.

Even with the extra cost of building the pump house, hooking up the fire suppression systems and installing fire alarms, the project came in $350,000 under budget. That money will be transferred to a renovation project at Jones Elementary School in Severna Park, according to Rodell E. Phaire Sr., director of planning and construction.

Fort Meade is taking over the old school building and will likely use it as a before- and after-school youth center for children ages 5 to 12, according to Fort Meade spokesman Don McClow.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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