Rec Center

From left, Baltimore County Recreation and Parks Director Barry Williams, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, County Councilman Todd Huff, School Superintendent Dallas Dance, Padonia International Elementary School Principal Melissa DiDonato, and Cockeysville Precinct Commander Capt. Dennis Delp break ground on the $3 million Cockeysville Community Center at Padonia International Elementary School. (Photo by Lauren Byrd, Baltimore County / January 27, 2014)

Baltimore County officials on Monday touted the new $3 million Cockeysville Community Center at Padonia International Elementary School as an innovative, collaborative solution to the county's growing school capacity and infrastructure needs.

"It's important to make this investment because we're not only investing in the future — our children — and meeting their needs, but importantly, we are investing in neighborhoods," Kamenetz said during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday. "Because when we have strong community schools, we have strong communities."

Community leaders, elected officials, and members of the construction team—including architects Gaudreau and builders Whiting Turner—joined Kamenetz at the groundbreaking Monday morning at Padonia International. The project, which was announced as part of the county executive's budget last year, is expected to be finished within a year, officials said.

The 14,260-square-foot community center will feature a gymnasium for use by Padonia International, plus a stage, activity rooms, and community rooms. Kamenetz said the building would be available for use for the school, and the Cockeysville area as a community center, a Police Athletic Center, and a location for activities by the Cockeysville Senior Center.

"We want that collaboration taking place," Kamenetz said. "It becomes a really nice fit here, bringing the entire community together on the grounds of Padonia. We're just really pleased to see this happen."

Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance highlighted the collaboration between the school system, Kamenetz, and Recreation and Parks Director Barry Williams on the project. Dance said it was "another opportunity for us to think outside the box."

By using the recreation center portion of the project as Padonia International's gym space, Dance said Principal Melissa DiDonato and her staff could utilize the current gym as classroom space when the project is finished.

Padonia International, which boasts students from 30 different countries, is 111 students over its state-rated capacity of 311 students. Because the school is nestled in a dense community with many apartment complexes within walking distance, the redistricting committee could only bring it down to 359 students in any of the pending redistricting proposals, which would be enacted next school year.

"This just goes to show you that Baltimore County is strong and we're still continuing to go forward, especially up here in the 3rd District," said Councilman Todd Huff, who represents the area.