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$32 million Leith Walk Elementary addition kicks off schools' facilities campaign

Leith Walk Elementary School kicked off the Baltimore city school system's "21st Century Buildings for Our Children" campaign, a billion-dollar borrowing plan that will require a funding commitment from the state, in order to overhaul the system's aging infrastructure--a feat determined to cost $2.4 billion.

The Sun's back-to-school coverage was notably devoted to the school shooting that took place in Baltimore on Monday, shortly after the state welcomed students back to school for the 2012-2013 school year.

However, the day did begin in some districts with smiling faces.

The $32 million addition to Leith Walk Elementary School was 20 years in the making, the school's principal Edna Greer told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people who gathered at the school Monday along with several local and state officials.

The North Baltimore school is one of the most popular and high performing in the district, and Greer said that as her school grew over the years, so did her dream for a building that could meet the challenge of its large student population ( 900, with just elementary grades).

"Like Dr. Martin Luther King, I had a dream for the future," Greer said. "My dream began 20 years ago, when I watched my students trying to concentrate in spring and summer when temperatures reached 90 degrees...when the library had to be divided in half to make room for a new classroom to accommodate the bulging population."

"Unlike Dr. King, I'm happy to say I've lived to see my dream," Greer said.

The new Leith Walk building adds 115,665 square feet to the existing 72,881 square-foot building. The facility's new classrooms and media center are outfitted with Smart boards and other technology. The new building connects to the school’s old building, which will also be renovated, allowing the school to expand to eighth grade in 2013 to 14.

In the upcoming legislative session, the city school system will submit its "21st-Century Buidlings for our Kids" plan to present its work thus far, namely a $1 million study of every school facility need in the city, secure funding for its plan to overhaul the system in 10 years.

So far, the only additional revenue secured has been from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who proposed a bottle tax last spring that will generate roughly $10 million annually for school construction.

erica.green@baltsun.com.

twitter.com/EricaLG

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