New North­ern High School opens doors

Ca­pac­ity is­sue re­solved; old build­ing to go

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD [email protected]­

It’s 7:20 a.m. and sopho­more Sa­rina Gaub and fresh­men brothers Ja­cob and Nate McCon­nell are among the many droves of students streaming past the old North­ern High School into the new $70 mil­lion re­place­ment build­ing.

Thurs­day morn­ing was the first day North­ern students at­tended classes in the new school. Calvert County Pub­lic Schools re­tired the old school, which was built in the 1970s, over the hol­i­day break.

“I’m pretty ex­cited. It’s big­ger and bet­ter,” Nate McCon­nell

said of the re­place­ment school.

“I’m ex­cited for [students in other schools] to stop bul­ly­ing us about not hav­ing win­dows. That’s a big one, and nerve rack­ing ‘ cause I heard it’s re­ally con­fus­ingly big,” sopho­more Alayna Ste­wart said, slid­ing into the build­ing min­utes be­fore the morn­ing bell.

“Oh great! I’m al­ready late be­cause I had a 30-minute walk from my car,” se­nior Al­li­son O’Brien said to her friends at 7:25 as the bell was ring­ing, mark­ing the of­fi­cial start of classes af­ter the win­ter break.

In July 2016, the Calvert Board of Ed­u­ca­tion awarded a school re­place­ment project con­tract to J.A. Scheibel Inc. of Hunt­ing­town for $69,382,000 to ad­dress the is­sue of over­crowd­ing and ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture at North­ern.

The project broke ground in Au­gust 2016. The new 211,260-square­foot build­ing, ad­ja­cent to the old school, can ac­com­mo­date 1,440 students, more than the for­mer build­ing, which was 178,531 square feet and had a ca­pac­ity thresh­old of 1,223.

The new build­ing is con­fig­ured like an “H” or “I,” de­pend­ing on per­spec­tive, with science labs in the cen­ter.

“The back area is where all your class­rooms are from third floor, sec­ond floor and the first floor. You al­ways come in on sec­ond floor. You don’t have to come to the first half of the build­ing un­less you are com­ing to the cafe­te­ria. Most of the time you are in that back ‘I’ area,” Prin­ci­pal Steve Wil­liams an­nounced over the school’s in­ter­com sys­tem shortly af­ter the bell.

“Have a great day — just re­mem­ber it’s like mov­ing into a new house. There’s go­ing to be some things we’ve got to fig­ure out and get com­fort­able with, but we will get there,” Wil­liams con­tin­ued, en­cour­ag­ing the students not to get anx­ious if they don’t get to class on time. “We have some hur­dles to over­come.”

Later, Wil­liams could be found help­ing se­nior Dy­lan Ray­field find his locker in the new fa­cil­ity.

On hand to ob­serve the fruits of CCPS’ la­bor was Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Daniel Curry, who said an open house was held the night be­fore for students and par­ents to get a preview of the school, with class sched­ules and school floor plan in hand, be­fore open­ing day. Curry said the event was well at­tended.

“I think it was very help­ful be­cause I saw students and par­ents with the map and they’re go­ing ‘first pe­riod I got to be down on the first floor and sec­ond pe­riod I got to be up on the sec­ond floor.’... It was good to be in­tro­duced to every­thing and come in here to­day with­out be­ing ab­so­lutely blind. It’s a good start,” he said.

North­ern High is the first new school he has opened in his five years at the helm of the school sys­tem. Curry also likened the ex­pe­ri­ence to home­own­er­ship, say­ing it was ex­cit­ing and stress­ful. He said some of the teach­ers have taught their en­tire ca­reers in the old North­ern High build­ing and will have to make a big ad­just­ment, but he thinks ev­ery­one is go­ing to love the new build­ing over the “odd de­sign” of the for­mer build­ing.

“The ameni­ties are beau­ti­ful. The cafe­te­ria is twice as big as any cafe­te­ria they’ve ever had — it’s a big day,” Curry said.

“Shu­chita is the ram­rod. She’s the one who made it come out of the ground,” Curry said, cred­it­ing Di­rec­tor of School Con­struc­tion Shu­chita Warner. “She got this on sched­ule and on time.”

Warner, who is in her 11th year with CCPS, rose from su­per­vi­sor of school con­struc­tion to di­rec­tor two years ago. She has over­seen four new school build­ing projects in Calvert to in­clude Barstow Ele­men­tary, Calvert Mid­dle and Calvert High.

Warner said the North­ern High con­struc­tion project has an­other 18 months to go, to in­clude tear­ing down the old build­ing, con­struc­tion of an ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, an ad­di­tion to the Mary Har­ri­son Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter and a new park­ing lot.

Curry and Warner said the ear­lier re­port of a 30-minute walk from the park­ing lot is a “bit of a stretch” and the walk is more like 10 min­utes, ac­knowl­edg­ing that se­niors and ju­niors who park in the stu­dent park­ing lot (for­mer North­ern Mid­dle School ball­fields) do have to walk far­ther than nor­mal, es­pe­cially if they are walk­ing and talk­ing with their friends.

“It is a bit of a longer walk, but they do get to come into a beau­ti­ful build­ing. So, hope­fully, that makes up for it,” Warner said, not­ing a closer park­ing lot will be erected even­tu­ally on part of the foot­print of the for­mer school.

Once the fi­nal park­ing lot is paved, there will be a to­tal of 360 new park­ing spa­ces pro­vided, along with 154 ex­ist­ing spa­ces for a to­tal of 514 by sum­mer 2020.

“I tell the kids this is part of our well­ness pro­gram. This is part of our anti-youth obe­sity pro­gram,” Curry joked, mak­ing light of the long, but tem­po­rary, walk be­tween the main build­ing, park­ing lot and the band room at the Har­ri­son Cen­ter. “You’re go­ing to get some steps in.”

Curry and Warner strolled through the build­ing ob­serv­ing students and ad­mir­ing the spa­cious class­rooms as well as the well-lit and wide hall­ways.

In class­room No. 234, teacher Robert Gib­bons fielded ques­tions from students in his Hon­ors Al­ge­bra 2 class about the new build­ing. Warner and Curry popped in and pitched in with an­swers about lay­out and park­ing.

Down the hall, 10thgrade English teacher Erin Mathers had an end­less list of pos­i­tives about the new build­ing: “Oh my [gosh], I love it. First thing start­ing with the win­dows. It helps the mood greatly when you can see out­side. Great space — there’s so much.”

“Be­yond the win­dows, it’s just com­fort­ing to have great air qual­ity. We’re not bounc­ing all over the place, as far as tem­per­a­ture. Just aes­thet­i­cally, it’s just beau­ti­ful. That’s re­fresh­ing,” Wil­liams said.

“We’re hop­ing to im­prove the cul­ture just by the build­ing, but we know the build­ing didn’t de­ter­mine our cul­ture be­cause we have very high-per­form­ing students and our students are great kids. So, we’re hop­ing to im­prove upon what we al­ready have,” he said.

Wil­liams said with the larger fa­cil­ity, the school can kind of loosen its belt when it comes to ca­pac­ity.

Curry stressed stu­dent en­roll­ment is the same and school bound­aries have not been changed, but that mov­ing into the newer, larger build­ing does give them “a whole lot more el­bow room.” Cur­rently, North­ern has a stu­dent body of 1,460, just 20 students over the state rated ca­pac­ity, but Curry stressed that does not mean the new school is over­crowded and that 1,440 is ideal.

In or­der to ac­com­mo­date the ex­tra square footage, the school hired two ad­di­tional cus­to­dial staff mem­bers to main­tain it.

Curry said both the school board and the county com­mis­sion­ers agreed to kick in ad­di­tional dol­lars to build the school to ex­pand ca­pac­ity.

“The state al­ways shares in the ex­pense, but in or­der to build what we wanted to build, we had to kick in more than the nor­mal share,” Curry said, ex­press­ing his ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the for­mer com­mis­sioner board.

“We can get rid of our trail­ers, too,” Warner said, re­fer­ring to three trail­ers on the front of the school that were al­ways staffed for classes.

The con­trac­tor will be­gin Phase 2 in mid-Jan­uary, which in­cludes some site work prior to start of de­mo­li­tion in early March. Con­struc­tion fenc­ing has been placed around the old build­ing in prepa­ra­tion for de­mo­li­tion to sep­a­rate the new school area.


Sopho­more Alayna Ste­wart was ex­cited about hav­ing win­dows in the new North­ern High School re­place­ment build­ing on its open­ing day Jan. 3. The old build­ing, which will be de­mol­ished, had no win­dows in the class­rooms.


Teacher Robert Gib­bons fields ques­tions from students in his Hon­ors Al­ge­bra 2 class at the new North­ern High School re­place­ment build­ing.

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