Dumbarton Middle School holds ceremony celebrating completion of two-year renovation

After about six years of advocacy, planning and construction, the Rodgers Forge community’s efforts finally paid off as it celebrated Wednesday the completion of renovations to Dumbarton Middle School.

“P-R-I-D-E, PRIDE!” a crowd of about 40 parents, students, school and county officials shouted as Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler snipped a red ribbon with a pair of oversized gold scissors. The acronym stands for perseverance, respect, intellectual growth, diligence and empathy.

The ceremony signaled the completion of about two years of renovations for the two-floor middle school, which serves the Rodgers Forge community. The $28 million project completed classroom construction ahead of schedule, by the end of February, Dumbarton Middle School Principal Sue Harris said. Other changes outdoors, such as the replacement of sidewalks in the back and the removal of five portable classrooms, will occur after the school lets out for the summer. The renovation work provided long-sought improvements to the aging middle school, which first opened its doors in 1956.

The upgrades included the enlargement of science classrooms and the addition of peninsulas — counter space that sticks into the classroom so that students can work collaboratively — as well as new lockers, an updated music wing, a library move from the back of the second floor to the front of the first floor and, perhaps most importantly, yes, air conditioning.

An audiovisual studio where students can make the morning announcements was also added, Harris said, and they can be viewed on the school’s new ActivInspire touch-screen boards in every classroom.

“The building is happier, the building has more technology for students, and the classroom sizes are more appropriate for what they need to have during this day and age,” Harris said.

Many Rodgers Forge community members, including 5th District Councilman David Marks and a number of parents who attended the ribbon-cutting, pushed for several years for the renovations to the school, which has a student enrollment of 1,164.

Cheri Bond Pegues, a former Parent Teacher Student Association president and one of the parents involved in initial calls for the renovation, said she worked with Marks in the summer of 2012 to start a grass-roots group, called Dumbarton United, that targeted air-conditioning for the school. She described the heat as “unbearable” for students, teachers and staff. The group was promised funding for the renovations and air conditioning by former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz by eighth-grade graduation in 2013, she said.

“It’s wonderful,” Pegues said. “There were a lot of delays, so I’m glad to see the work we started way back in 2012 has finally come to fruition and that our students can have a wonderful school environment.”

According to a May 21 update on the Baltimore County Public Schools’ website, 12 schools in the county remain without air conditioning. There’s been a long-running feud among officials over the matter — Kamenetz pressed for accelerated installment of air conditioning rather than portable air conditioning, which Gov. Larry Hogan and state Comptroller Peter Franchot urged immediate spending on.

Amy Kline, a former Dumbarton PTSA president who also called for the renovations in the early stages, will have a sixth-grader at the school next year. She said the renovation represents how the community works together.

“That was really taken into account — how Baltimore is a series of neighborhoods — and that whole feeling of everyone working together,” Kline said, noting that she and Harris garnered a lot of community input. “So it’s just a coming together, a culmination of putting an entire fabric of a neighborhood together in a school.”

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