Racing to beat the first bell

New Marley Middle School rises next to old site

August 27, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

In the days leading up to tomorrow's start of the new school year, educators around the county put final touches on their classroom decor, worked out scheduling kinks and made sure immunization records were in order.

But at Marley Middle School in Glen Burnie, furniture is still being assembled, some textbooks remain stacked in cardboard boxes, and photos and awards line a hallway floor, waiting to be hung.

Visible through the many large windows is a pile of rubble, being moved by giant construction cranes, that serves as a reminder of the school's recent past.

On Wednesday the $33 million, 154,293-square-foot Marley Middle School will open for the first time to sixth-graders. On Thursday, seventh- and eighth-graders will join them. In all, nearly 850 students will attend this fall.

The new facility, which has a capacity of more than 1,100 students, was built over two years and replaces the original Marley Junior High, built in 1958.

The school's design was scaled back after County Executive Janet S. Owens balked at the initial $41 million price tag in 2002. Still, the new school boasts many features that the old one next door lacked.

Video cameras serve as eyes over the school's hallways, stairwells and cafeteria. Central air-conditioning will keep students, teachers and administrators much cooler than the fans in the former windowless classrooms.

"It's so clean, so fresh," said seventh-grade language arts teacher Barb Bollino. "It's a great environment."

The school also features a soundproofed gymnasium and a "consumer family science" classroom that looks like the set of a TV cooking show. It even has a large overhead mirror, so students can watch demonstrations from their desks.

But it's not just about aesthetics and comfort. Cordell Hunter, assistant principal for the eighth grade, said the new environment also was designed to improve student learning. Marley Middle School is one of five county middle schools on a state watch list for not making adequate progress on state test standards for two years or more.

The school has been divided into pods, or quadrants (administrators haven't settled on what to call them), Hunter said. Off the main hallway on the first floor are groupings of three classrooms - one each for language arts, social studies and math - so students won't have to travel far to their next class. Also in each area is a teacher planning room.

The change from the traditional classroom-hallway design will trim the travel time between classes, add precious extra minutes to instructional time and foster more of a community feeling, Hunter said.

"It helps teachers have a sense of responsibility to their particular group of students," he said.

Technology amenities include at least two computers in every classroom, a 48-computer lab attached to the spacious media center, and more computers in the media center for research.

Science labs

A wing of the school, on the second floor, houses all the science classrooms - each with a science lab next to it. The labs will allow all students to participate in experiments. The old Marley Middle School lacked any science labs. Each classroom was equipped only with a teaching lab station, for demonstrations.

Dianne Hartley, president of the Marley Middle School PTSA, said she is particularly happy with the new security measures - including the video cameras and locked doors that operate on a buzzer system.

She hopes excitement around the new building will inspire more parental involvement - especially now that volunteers have their own room at the school.

"At the other school, they had a teachers' lounge, but it was very small, it was always hot and it had a horrible stench," she said. "This new room is enclosed. ... It's our own space that we can go to."

Farewell

In June, the school invited alumni and other community members to a farewell ceremony for the old building, which was demolished over the summer.

But it isn't completely gone. Two long, wooden benches from the original building line the wall outside the new cafeteria/auditorium. Nearly 1,000 bricks salvaged from the old school will be used as memorial bookends.

The last new school buildings to open in Anne Arundel were Seven Oaks and Mayo elementary schools, which opened in August 2005.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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