Construction begins on middle school

Baltimore County aims to ease crowding with Windsor Mill building

September 03, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Construction is under way on a middle school designed to ease crowding in western Baltimore County after years of community pleas for relief.

Windsor Mill Middle School will cost $27.5 million to build and is expected to open for the 2006-2007 school year, officials said. Situated on 38 acres owned by the school district in the 8200 block of Windsor Mill Road, the school will accommodate 720 pupils in a building with 116,645 square feet.

Parents, educators and community activists had been pushing for a new school for nearly a decade before yesterday's official groundbreaking. In 1998, The Sun reported that county officials had agreed to build a middle school between Woodlawn and Randallstown and expected it to be open as early as 2002.

Now that construction has begun, "we are elated," said Maria Hopewell, principal of Southwest Academy, one of the crowded middle schools that will be affected by Windsor Mill Middle. "Every year we're growing more and more."

Hopewell said Southwest Academy is projected to have 1,358 pupils this year. The school building has room for 1,100, and classes are being held in 10 trailers.

The new school is also expected to reduce the number of students at Old Court and Woodlawn middle schools, among others.

About 50 people - among them legislators, school board members and administrators - gathered under yesterday's midmorning sun on a large pile of rocks and dirt at the Windsor Mill site. As high heels sank into the ground and dress shoes were dirtied, each of the officials, including Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, pushed a shovel into the ground.

Site preparation had started earlier, as evidenced by nearby construction trucks.

As County Executive James T. Smith Jr. praised the community for its perseverance, school system officials praised Smith for "forward-funding" the project by putting up the state's share of construction costs along with the county's to speed construction.

The state will reimburse the county, although a spokesman for Smith could not say yesterday what the amount will be. The state's share, determined by a complex formula, was originally $6.7 million, but could be less now.

Smith faces heat on the other side of the county from activists who want him to support a new high school between Perry Hall and Towson. Smith has said he doesn't think another high school is necessary.

Baltimore County is on track to open a new school for each of the next two school years. Woodholme Elementary is expected to open for the 2005-2006 year.

Windsor Mill Middle will have 30 classrooms, a wing for fine-arts facilities, three soccer and hockey fields, three baseball diamonds, three tennis courts and a multipurpose court.

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