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Calvert School plans new round of expansion

Twelve years after drawing the ire of the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood for its last expansion, Calvert School is expanding again — but this time with more community support.

A campus master plan presented by the school's headmaster to the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association on Jan. 24 calls for a four-phase expansion and renovation project that would start in June.

The project would include expansion of the 90-year-old lower school, a new lecture hall attached to the middle school and restoration of the historic, now-vacant Castalia House to its original use as a residence for the school headmaster.

School officials would not say how much the overall project will cost or what the square footage of the lower school expansion, described as a new wing, would be. Plans are not far enough along to do so, spokeswoman Stephanie Coldren said.

Phase one of the plan is a new, 9,000-square-foot wing of the lower school on the site of a controversial fraternity house that was razed in 2010. The new wing would house pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms and the admissions office.

Construction on the wing is scheduled to begin in June after students leave for the year, Coldren said. She also said the infrastructure of the original building will be upgraded.

The expansion is needed because, "We haven't done any sort of updates to the lower school," Coldren said.

However, she said the 108-year-old private school with 611 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has no plans to increase its student body, which would violate neighborhood association covenants.

"We're not doing the expansion with any intent to grow the student body," she said. "It's just to serve the current student body and the future students to come — and to help us remain competitive in a market where there's a lot of independent schools."

The second phase, which is also expected to begin this summer, calls for bumping out the middle school to build a 250-seat lecture hall, Coldren said. The middle school opened in 2003.

Longer-range plans call for restoring Castalia House as a headmaster's residence. Castalia was built in 1928. The current headmaster's residence, a separate house, would be converted to office space, Coldren said.

Headmaster Andrew Martire presented the plans Jan. 24 during a hearing in the atrium with more than 60 people in attendance, according to community association President Susan Talbott, who was at the meeting.

Most residents at the meeting supported the plans, said Talbott and City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents and lives in the neighborhood and who was also at the meeting.

But Clarke and Talbott said some residents in attendance, including filmmaker and author John Waters, raised concerns about the short-term effect of construction on the nearby community.

"There was a general concern, less with the design than with the construction disruption," Clarke said. She said many residents had bad memories from 2002, when Calvert built the middle school and two playing fields. The middle school opened in 2003.

"People have lived through (construction) already with the middle school," Clarke said. "They want to minimize" the new work.

"My goal is to make things as painless as possible," Talbott said. "We are going to work very closely and carefully with Calvert School in an attempt to make these construction projects go as smoothly as possible."

The fate of Castalia has long been uncertain. In 2008, school officials discussed razing the house and building an amphitheater on the site, but that plan was rejected, Coldren said.

The community is "very pleased" with the current plans for Castalia House, said Clarke.

The lower school addition would be built on the site where Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house once stood at 3906 Canterbury Road. The neighborhood association in 2007 convinced the city to ban the fraternity from keeping the complaint-prone frat house, which was later sold to the school and razed.

According to its website, Calvert School had its beginnings in 1897 when a group of Baltimore families opened the Boys' and Girls' Primary School above a pharmacy in the city. Within two years, the school grew to 79 students and 12 teachers and changed its name to Calvert Primary School.

In 1901, the school moved to West Chase Street, and in 1924, the school moved to its current location in Roland Park. In 2000, the Board of Trustees approved a plan to create a middle school and two sports fields and property was purchased across Tuscany Road to build a state-of-the-art school for fifth through eighth grades.

But that expansion led to a bitter fight with neighbors, which resulted in creation of legal covenants between the school and the neighborhood association, governing growth and traffic, among other issues. The agreement is still in effect.

Michael Davis, a lawyer for the school, told the city's Planning Commission in 2001, "We view expansion as critical to our survival," The Sun reported at the time.

"The school has gotten to a place where we have a good relationship with the community," Coldren told the Messenger last week. "We've come a long way."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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