A new school for Cooksville

Plan: Woodmont Academy will leave Baltimore County and open next year on a 67-acre parcel in western Howard.

October 25, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It has been 60 years since a Catholic school has opened in Howard County, but Woodmont Academy, a Baltimore County Catholic school, plans to break that streak.

Woodmont formally announced this month that it will leave its home in Woodstock, over the Howard County line, to a facility that will be built in western Howard.

The school purchased the 67-acre property in Cooksville from Howard County.

"We will be occupying and having school there [in] September of 2003," Woodmont board member Corey Blanton said.

Principal Michele Blum said the school community is enthusiastic about the move.

"It's something we've been working for since the beginning of school," she said, referring to Woodmont's founding in 1995 under the spiritual direction of the Legionaries of Christ and with the approval of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The school has grown from 46 pupils in 1995 to 274 in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"Every classroom, every office, everything - every inch of the buildings are being used," Blum said.

The first structure to be built at the new site will measure 20,000 square feet and house 500 pupils.

With the increased space and the addition of a preschool, Woodmont expects to enroll 381 pupils next year and to reach capacity for the first building a year later, Blanton said.

The school's 10-year master plan for a proposed $30 million campus includes athletic fields, separate elementary and preschool/kindergarten buildings, a gymnasium, auditorium, chapel and administration and commons buildings.

Blanton said Woodmont eventually hopes to add facilities for a high school, after approval from the archdiocese.

"That [first] building will be used for a retreat center once the complete project is finished," Blanton said.

When the new Woodmont opens, it will be the sixth Catholic school in the county. Howard has four parish schools that were founded between 1860 and 1922.

A fifth school, Trinity School in Ellicott City, opened in 1941 under the sponsorship of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

"We are putting a product in the county that is in dire need of this product," Woodmont's Blanton said, noting waiting lists and high enrollments at the area's Catholic schools.

Members of the Woodmont Academy community say that the importance of character formation, religious education and academic excellence in a family atmosphere also is reason enough for the school's success.

"These people really care about your child and share the same values and aspirations for your child," said parent Peggy Preis of Lisbon, who has four children in the school.

"They really promote them to be caring, kind individuals," added Tracey Lucido of Woodstock, whose three children attend Woodmont. Both parents volunteer there.

The Rev. Richard Gill, regional coordinator for the Legionaries of Christ and chairman of the school's board of directors, pointed to the importance of the laity in the formation and support of Catholic schools.

"It's all the lay people who really start to take their faith more seriously," he said.

"They go out and they get a commitment and take on a project like [Woodmont Academy]. That's a beautiful thing."

Last week, a Bible displayed on a table in the school's lobby was open to Proverbs 4, a passage that extols the importance of wisdom and the necessity of living righteously.

In a kindergarten class, children ran to hug Blum, the principal, when she came for a visit.

Some of the youngsters knew about the plans for a new school.

Kindergartner Joey Arnold said that the large portable trailer that held his classroom was movable by truck.

He wondered whether the trailer would be hauled to the new school site for use next year.

The academy is selling its Woodstock property and expects to break ground for the first phase of the project early next year.

A fund-raising campaign will begin in the spring.

"We're growing and we're trying to do the best we can, and we're really hoping to make a contribution in Howard County," Gill said.

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