After six years of fund raising, the Garrison Forest School has started construction of an athletic facility, part of the final phase of a $22 million capital campaign at the Owings Mills private school.
The $7.5 million field house will include a three-court basketball complex, five competition-level squash courts, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a running track and a dance studio.
In addition, playing fields will be refurbished, and an equestrian center with an arena will be built.
School officials say the expansion was necessary to upgrade facilities at the 88-year-old independent college-preparatory day and boarding school.
They say it also was needed to accommodate the growth in enrollment at the school, which is at an all-time high of 596 students.
"It's very exciting," said Garrison Forest headmaster G. Peter O'Neill Jr. "It means we have the finest possible physical facilities to offer our students in virtually every area, academically as well as athletically."
Founded in 1910 by Mary Moncrieffe, the girls school has students in nursery school through 12th grade.
O'Neill said fund raising at Garrison Forest has been helped by a strong economy and a growing trend of women philanthropists donating large sums of money to their alma maters.
With the help of a large private donation, Garrison Forest opened its lower school last year, which allowed a 50 percent increase in enrollment.
The lower school has two classrooms per grade, new science facilities and more space for classes such as art and music.
During the expansion, the school also has built a fine-arts center, created a technology program and increased the endowment.
Most of the money raised by the school has been from private individuals, alumni, foundations and friends of Garrison Forest. School officials say they hope the athletic facilities will be completed by fall 2000.
"This will be the most extensive athletic facility of any school in the Baltimore area, and we are excited to be debuting the area's first squash courts," O'Neill said.