The county's oldest high school will receive many major improvements over three years.

Rejuvenating Howard High

Work set on cafeteria, auditorium, gym areas

Project costing $30 million

July 13, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Howard High School's old auditorium and cafeteria have been knocked down. Scaffolds surround the building, and the main office has been relocated to the media center.

The county's oldest high school is undergoing a major, three-year renovation project, which is slated to bring the aging building up to par with the district's newer schools.

"It's quite dramatic," said Bruce Gist, the school system's construction program manager.

When the multiphase, $30 million project is completed in December 2007, Howard High will have several new or updated features: a 900-seat auditorium, a larger cafeteria, an auxiliary gym, a wrestling room, a girls locker room and a music complex.

The building also will have 169 more classroom seats, bringing the school to the standard of 1,332 for county high schools.

"We'll have an updated, state-of-the-art facility that will be parallel to all the schools in Howard County," said Gina Massella, Howard High's principal.

The renovations at Howard High have been long awaited - and much debated.

In 2002, a planning committee reviewing how the school could best increase its capacity found that the school, which opened in 1952, had other needs essential to providing the same educational programming as newer schools.

"It became clear it was a 50-year-old building, and there were a lot of things that weren't necessarily at the same level" as other high schools, said Ellen Flynn Giles, a member of the Howard High planning committee.

The Board of Education agreed to phase in the project over several years. For the fiscal year that began this month, the school board approved $17.2 million - the last pot of money for the project.

Signs of the project abound at the school on Route 108. Only debris remained of the old auditorium and cafeteria. Signs direct visitors to the main office at the rear of the school, near the athletic fields. School administrators moved to temporary offices last month, Massella said.

By the time school opens Aug. 29, an addition to the east wing is scheduled to be completed.

The addition will include the new girls locker room, wrestling room, auxiliary gym and music complex. The new auditorium and administration offices are scheduled to be completed at the end of October, Gist said.

With the old auditorium and cafeteria on the west wing knocked down, the auxiliary gym will temporarily house the lunchroom, Gist said.

In the meantime, construction of new classrooms and the new cafeteria on the school's west wing - cordoned off from the rest of the building - will continue throughout the year. They're scheduled to be completed next summer.

"It's just a way of life for three years," Massella said. "We're just going to focus on the end product and have business as usual and make sure that the kids are not inconvenienced. That's our goal - that our kids will do everything that they have been doing regardless of construction."

The last major project at Howard High occurred about 10 years ago, when the science wing was renovated, Gist said.

Other schools are in the midst of renovations or under construction. Workers are putting the "final touches" on Marriotts Ridge High School, which is scheduled to open in August, Gist said.

Other projects include the Cedar Lane School, which is moving to a new building adjacent to Lime Kiln Middle School; a new western elementary school in Dayton; and construction of two new classrooms at Lime Kiln Middle.

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