Red Pump Elementary School just north of Bel Air was filled with a sea of red and black, as students, staff, parents and community leaders came out Friday to celebrate the formal dedication of Harford County Public Schools' newest school.
The children, most attired in the school's colors, sat on the floor of the auditorium as elected officials, school system leaders and community representatives presented items for the building's cornerstone.
Joseph Licata, the school system's chief of administration, got the crowd fired up when he ran into the auditorium in a Dalmatian costume to the sounds of Baha Men's "Who Let The Dogs Out?" in honor of Red Pump's mascot.
"We are now officially part of Dalmatian nation," Licata announced to the roomful of cheering children.
Licata explained he was representing "our top dog," Superintendent Robert Tomback, who had another engagement and was unable to attend the dedication.
"We wanted this to be a memorable occasion for you," Licata said in further explanation of his outfit.
He also said the occasion is memorable for its fifth-graders, who will be the first class to graduate from Red Pump, a $31 million building that is likely to be the last new school opened in Harford County for some time.
Red Pump Principal Blaine Hawley used props to show students how their building came together, donning a construction helmet and holding up architectural drawings. She also explained what a cornerstone means.
"It was a school on paper… It was hard to imagine what it would truly become," Hawley said of the construction process. "That's all the school was at one point, was just a pile of papers and drawings…Our intended use was a school, and what a school, right? A great school."
Red Pump, whose 625 students came from four adjacent elementary schools in Bel Air and Forest Hill, officially opened in August on 18 acres off Red Pump and Vale roads.
The 100,000-square-foot building includes a TV studio, computer lab, four computers in each classroom and interactive whiteboards.
Hawley recalled when people in the neighborhood saw fields and trees replaced by mud and construction trailers.
"The strangest part was, no children were allowed in because it was not a safe place, because it was a construction site," she said. "Today, I walk around and I see active learning… More than four years ago, before some of our students were even born, a dream was created."
She asked students to show appreciation for the many people who allowed the school to be built, and a loud "Thank you!" came in unison from the student body.
"We thank these men and women who did their part," Hawley said. "Can you imagine all these people helped to make Red Pump a reality? History has begun with all of us here today."
The ceremony began with a flag procession of fourth-graders and fifth-graders. The fifth-grade band performed "America the Beautiful," which Hawley praised for being very successful in such a short amount of time.
"For them to sound this perfect is pretty amazing," she said.
The cornerstone included radio logs, copies of The Aegis newspaper, commemorative coins, a Harford County Public Schools logo pin, a dedication booklet, a Board of Education paperweight, and signatures of students, staff and people in attendance.
State Sen. Barry Glassman presented Hawley with a Maryland flag.
County Executive David Craig, as well as several county council members and board of education members, were present on the stage.
In a nod to the school's high-tech capabilities, students later watched the laying of the cornerstone from their classrooms via live video.