School poised for expansion

Bowling Brook prepares to double capacity, add to on-campus programs

June 04, 2006|By NORA KOCH | NORA KOCH,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bowling Brook Preparatory School, the privately run institution for delinquent teenage boys just outside Taneytown, will soon break ground for additions that -- eventually -- will almost double the student body.

But before building four dormitories and enrolling more students, school officials say they want to complete a vocational building that will offer a new menu of on-campus practical skills training and build up other athletic and academic programs.

Bowling Brook recently received county approval for the expansion, which will include the $2.3 million vocational building, a 20,000-square-foot recreational building and the new dorms.

The improvements will allow the school to grow to a maximum of 327 students, but Headmaster Mike Sunday said he doesn't know when the school will build the planned 48-bed dormitories or seek regulatory licensing to increase enrollment.

In 2004, Bowling Brook received initial approval from the Governor's Office For Children, Youth and Families for the increased capacity.

"We plan to build the next dorm when we feel like we're ready to grow," said Sunday, who came to Bowling Brook three decades ago when the enrollment was one. "But it's important that we begin programming first."

For now, the school's enrollment will stay about 173, the capacity licensed by the state, and school officials will focus on developing more job-training programs and academic and athletic offerings, said Sunday. He hopes to break ground on the first construction phase this month.

"The more we can offer these young men, as far as opportunities to succeed, the better," said Brian Hayden, a Bowling Brook staff member who sits on the school's board of directors. "We have a group here with unlimited potential, and the more opportunities we put in front of them, the more they can run with."

Bowling Brook is a nonprofit, privately run residential program for juvenile offenders -- mostly from Maryland or other Eastern states -- who are referred, usually by the court system, for rehabilitation. Tuition and board cost about $48,000 a year; for most students, the cost is paid by the states of which they are residents.

The school uses a highly structured program of academics, athletics, peer pressure and positive reinforcement, Sunday said. Students are required to wear prep school-style uniforms, keep their dorms in white-glove order and adhere to a rigorous schedule that begins with a wake-up call at 6:30 a.m., followed by a day of group counseling, academic classes and athletics, then a 9:30 bedtime.

Most students leave with a General Educational Development diploma, and half graduate with college credits earned in classes taught on campus by Carroll Community College instructors. Last semester, five college classes were offered at the school.

Bowling Brook also buses students to Frederick Community College for training in heating and air-conditioning work, carpentry, welding and masonry. On-campus courses in landscaping, driver's education and carpentry also are offered.

Bowling Brook's future vocational building will include areas for the school to offer training in building trades, welding, barbering, digital graphics and printing, and culinary arts, Sunday said.

The 19,000-square-foot vocational structure also will include a 150-seat lecture hall and two large classrooms.

The first phase of construction will include the recreational building, with three indoor basketball courts and an indoor track, and new soccer and baseball fields.

Initial funding for the improvements has come from Bowling Brook, a matching $1 million grant from the state and gifts from private organizations such as Associated Black Charities, which donated $25,000 for the barbering program.

Louise Robertson, who has lived on a 30-acre farm adjoining the campus since before Bowling Brook got its start in 1957, applauds the school's mission and accomplishments.

"The young men I have met in the community are clean, polite and friendly," she said. "I'm just wishing that when their term is up they will go back into good environments that will encourage what they have learned to continue on with that kind of life."

Still, she can't shake some anxiety about living next to a facility for juvenile offenders and the prospect of an expansion.

While Sunday acknowledges the school has occasionally faced problems with students over the years, he said that an expansion won't create more safety concerns for neighbors.

"Actually, we feel very strongly at Bowling Brook that a larger facility can create a stronger, wider culture that can make it more difficult for one youngster to make an impact," Sunday said. "Youngsters are placed here based on the fact that the courts determine he can be safely managed on our open campus."

With the prospect of a doubled student body and the chance to grow, Sunday said he is excited about Bowling Brook's future.

"Our goal at Bowling Brook is to be one of the best schools in the country, and I use the term `school,'" Sunday said. "That's what we do: We try to educate young men. And there's no shortage of requests for our services."

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