Vic­tory Villa El­e­men­tary build­ing half­way com­pleted

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

Af­ter over two years of planning, the new Vic­tory Villa El­e­men­tary School build­ing is fi­nally com­ing to­gether. On Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 17, lo­cal of­fi­cials and res­i­dents gath­ered at the base of the rapidly rid­ing new school build­ing for a ground-break­ing cer­e­mony mark­ing the half-way point of con­struc­tion.

“I can proudly say that our staff, stu­dents, and fam­i­lies

are thrilled to wit­ness this trans­for­ma­tion of our his­tor­i­cal, tem­po­rary, school­house into a 21st-cen­tury learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” said Vic­tory Villa prin­ci­pal Marge Roberts.

Con­struc­tion on the $39 mil­lion new build­ing, which will dou­ble the school’s ca­pac­ity, be­ing able to house 735 stu­dents, be­gan in Au­gust of 2016. It will be com­pleted in Au­gust of 2018.

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz ex­plained that the new school will go a long way in re­duc­ing over­crowd­ed­ness in other area schools. A con­tro­ver­sial bound­ary study to de­ter­mine zon­ing changes based on the school’s new ca­pac­ity was com­pleted this sum­mer, ul­ti­mately af­fect­ing eight el­e­men­tary schools.

Stu­dents whose homes are zoned to a new school as a re­sult of the bound­ary change de­ci­sion will move when the new boundaries are ef­fec­tive for the 20182019 school year. Fam­i­lies will be no­ti­fied in March 2018 re­gard­ing how the new boundaries may af­fect them.

Ed­ward Gil­liss Esp., the chair of the Bal­ti­more County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, said the new fa­cil­ity will “honor the scholas­tic his- tory that has hap­pened on this spot.”

He ex­plained that old build­ing on Com­pass Rd. was erected nearly 70 years ago and was orig­i­nally dubbed the “Mid­dle River School”. It was built for stu­dents whose fam­i­lies had just moved into the area to work at Martin Ma­ri­etta Plant dur­ing World War II.

The school was meant to be tem­po­rary, how­ever, it was still be­ing used un­til the sum­mer of last year.

In June of 2016, the school hosted one fi­nal open house for stu­dents, past and present, to say good­bye to the old school­house before it was razed a month later.

“I think it’s time for a change and I bet you agree with me,” said Gil­liss. “As Eastern Bal­ti­more County has grown, our school sys­tem has grown with it. This site will house a cen­ter for learn­ing in the Mid­dle River com­mu­nity, a place where chil­dren will grow and thrive while hon­or­ing the com­mu­nity’s his­tory and iden­tity.”

Roberts said that she, and her per­sonal in­sight into the needs of her stu­dents, has been a con­trib­u­tor in the planning process since the be­gin­ning.

“I’ve been in­volved with the process from the fea­si­bil­ity study, to even de­ter­mine how and where we’re go­ing to build and what kind of build­ing we’ll have,” she said, ex­cit­edly adding that they’ve moved on to the “fun” part of the planning which in­cludes pick­ing out paint col­ors and fur­ni­ture.

She said her stu­dents, who all live just a few blocks from the school, see the every-day progress of their new build­ing as it trans­forms from a dirt lot to a brand-new fa­cil­ity.

“They’re so ex­cited,” said Roberts.

Ver­letta White, the In­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent of BCPS, praised the hard work and col­lab­o­ra­tion that went into the pro­ject, in­clud­ing lo­cal busi­nesses who con­trib­uted fund­ing and sup­port.

“Schools are the hub of a com­mu­nity. We have keep that in mind when­ever we’re build­ing a new fa­cil­ity or when­ever we’re sup­port­ing an ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity,” she said.

Vic­tory Villa is the 83rd of 90 schools in Bal­ti­more County be­ing renovated or re­built since 2011 as part of $1.3 bil­lion investment in area schools.

Kamenetz said th­ese schools were suf­fer­ing from “ag­ing, crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture” and that the ren­o­va­tion will add 10,000 class­room seats. He said that for every $1 they re­ceive from the state for this pro­ject, the county puts $2 in.

“We’re pulling kids out of trail­ers and putting them into mod­ern learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments.”

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