Giving school space to succeed

Additions: Trinity School in Ellicott City hopes construction beginning at the end of the month will help it maintain its reputation for excellence.

March 22, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Trinity School's stately 88-year-old campus is getting a $9.2 million overhaul.

Officials are breaking ground at the end of the month for a middle school building, scheduled to open by September 2001.

It will replace the oldest remaining building on the campus in Ellicott City -- one constructed in 1914 for what was then an Episcopal school for boys.

Trinity, an independent Roman Catholic, coeducational school run by the Sisters of Notre Dame, also will build a community center and renovate much of the campus. Officials expect the project will be finished in 2002.

"There has not been any construction here since the '60s," said Eleanor Logue, Trinity's director of development. "It's about time."

School officials launched a construction fund-raising campaign last year. Most of the cost will be paid with state bonds, Logue said.

Trinity's campus sits on 49 acres off Ilchester Road, an enclave of space amid housing developments. But the buildings are cramped. With 388 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade, there is no room for more children.

The additions will make space for a preschool program, but officials aren't looking to increase enrollment. They want bigger classrooms to give teachers more flexibility. Space is especially tight in the middle school building, and they want to modernize the facilities.

The 10 middle school classrooms planned for the new building will be bigger, and all will have televisions, telephones, computers and air conditioning.

Joan Voshell, whose fifth-grade and seventh-grade sons attend Trinity, can attest to the need for extra space. "I aid once a week, and you can't walk around for all the backpacks in the aisles," she said.

What won't change is the architecture, which families see as a key part of Trinity's atmosphere. The additions are designed in the Tudor style of the current brick buildings.

"The architecture's very charming," said Sister Catherine Phelps, Trinity's president. "I've always been very happy that it doesn't have an institutional feel to it. I think that contributes to the feeling that so many people have about being part of the family. We'd like to maintain that."

People also take pride in campus history.

Some of the buildings were constructed for the Donaldson School for boys, which moved to the Ilchester Road property in 1912. That school closed in 1933. A year later, the Sisters of Notre Dame bought the campus, opening a junior/senior high, Trinity Preparatory School.

The campus didn't become known as Trinity School until 1973, but officials trace their history to 1941, when the nuns added a grade school.

The high school closed in 1972, and the campus has pupils in kindergarten through grade eight only.

Trinity won the national Blue Ribbon award in 1989 and again last year, a recognition the U. S. Department of Education granted to 266 schools in 1999.

So even as parents point out that middle-schoolers are elbow-to-elbow in the science lab, space is at a premium in the classrooms and girls have to change for gym in the auditorium, they say that they're not really complaining.

"Obviously the excellence of the education has shone through, despite the facility," said Cheryl Riedel, a Hanover resident whose two daughters attend the school. "I really think we're looking at the building as a way to spread out and continue."

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