Stoneleigh Elementary families get first look at life on the road

Starting Monday, school is relocating for a year to accommodate expansion project

August 29, 2012|By Katie V. Jones

The parking lot was overflowing and the halls were bustling, yet there was still room.

Lots of it.

In the halls and classrooms of the former George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, on York Road, in Towson, there was room to move and room to get lost.

It's space that the students and their families of Stoneleigh Elementary School welcomed with open arms at Friday's "Sneak a Peek at Your Seat" event, a preview to let students and parents see the school before Monday's start of the year for Baltimore County Public Schools.

"It is so much bigger," said Lindsay Kinkead, who came with her daughter Ryan, 6, who will be a first-grader when school opens. "I love the high ceiling."

It was about 10 months ago that parents and staff Stoneleigh first considered moving to the former Carver high school building for a year, while their school on Pemberton Road undergoes a $18.8 million renovation and expansion project.

The old Carver school was available and vacant — Carver Center for the Arts and Technology is moving to a brand new high school on the same campus that will also open on Monday. For Stoneleigh, relocating was deemed a better option than trying to hold classes in the midst of a construction zone. And being out of the way will allow the expansion at Stoneleigh to be completed by next year.

Over this summer, the old Carver underwent a retrofit to accommodate a group of younger, smaller students, and Friday's "peek" gave students their first look at their new home-away-from-home.

For years, Stoneleigh has been battling an overpopulation issue. The Pemberton Road facility had a state-rated capacity of 499, but enrollment last year was 690 students. At Carver, that's no problem.

"I'm excited and lost and it's really big. I'm not used to that," said Neeley Dayan, 10, a fifth-grader, as she traveled the halls with her friend Chloe Cheseldine,10, also a fifth-grader.

"I'm excited but nervous," Chloe admitted. "It's going to be a different experience."

Thirteen buses will transport students of Stoneleigh to Carver — which now bears Stoneleigh's colors and its stallion mascot.

Sherri Buttarazzi will have five children attending Stoneleigh this year — two fifth-graders, a third-grader, a second-grader and one kindergartner.

"I am surprised by how much space there is," Buttarazzi said as the family looked over the building. "I didn't realize how small our school had become. It's amazing. It's a great opportunity."

Sound filled the large room that houses Stoneleigh's music department, including the school's steel drum band. While the acoustics may not be the best, Jackie Blinke, the instrumental music teacher, was pleased.

"At Stoneleigh, my room is not big enough to hold the whole ensemble," Blinke said, nodding toward the room. "This is significantly bigger. I can hold big rehearsals here."

Teachers led tours through the school, pointing out the various grades and their hallways, as well as the art room, the large gym and the cafeteria — where a snack was provided at the end.

Principal Christine Warner, who advocated for the move and last fall called it a "180-day field trip," greeted families in the lobby, and said she and the school's staff are ready for Monday.

"It's fabulous. It looks like an elementary school," Warner said of the building. "Today is a celebration. ... We have the best school in the universe."

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