More than 500 Hampton Elementary students and teachers stretched the length and width of a grassy field Friday, roughly replicating the outline of a $19 million addition to the school in Lutherville.
Principal Patricia Kaiser called the display during the groundbreaking a preview of what will be "our school of dreams."
"We are celebrating the start of a much-needed groundbreaking," Kaiser said. "These children are standing along the perimeter of our addition. By 2012, our students will be housed in a beautiful new building, a completely air-conditioned school."
The nearly 40,000-square-foot expansion will house 24 classrooms and create space to improve the library, science lab, and music and art rooms.
"This is an example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Kaiser said in a nod to the parent activism that kept the project before officials.
The one-story brick building that opened on Charmuth Road in 1958 has in recent years become the most crowded elementary school in Baltimore County. Classes resumed last fall with 200 students beyond the school's original capacity of 300. Its fourth- and fifth-graders attend classes in 10 portables on the grounds. And enrollment will swell by at least 50 more students in September.
"You soon will have a fabulous building, and you deserve it," said Maureen Zingo, PTA president and mother of three. "Your families helped make this happen. We demanded a seat for every child in this building."
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz "congratulated parents for moving the project forward" and thanked state legislators, who secured $6.5 million in construction funds this session. Among those in attendance were schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and members of the county's Annapolis delegation and the County Council.
Crowded elementary schools along the York Road corridor spurred community activism and a constant demand for improvements. Many parents said they became fixtures at school board meetings.
"There was persistent dialogue, never anything adversarial," said Zingo, whose youngest child will begin kindergarten in the new wing. "This took longer than anybody wanted, but we were not going away until it was begun."
Ultimately, several other projects moved forward. The county opened West Towson Elementary last year and has also undertaken design work for an addition to Stoneleigh Elementary.
"A community is only as strong as the families in it," Zingo said. "Today is a clear indication of how strong we are."