'A welcoming, warm environment' will greet students at Howard's newest elementary school

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Students arriving at the new Hanover Hills Elementary School Tuesday morning will be welcomed by colorful walls, floor tiles with shapes and flowers and quotes from inspirational figures.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,” reads one from Helen Keller, a blind-deaf author and activist from the 1800s.

Another, from the animator and filmmaker Walt Disney: “All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Principal Troy Todd chose the quotes that are on both sides of the salmon-colored arches in the main hallway.

“We wanted to have ones that meant something,” said Todd, who spent a decade as principal of Running Brook Elementary School.

Hanover Hills, which will have 680 students, is Howard County’s 42nd elementary school and the only new school opening in the academic year.

The school has 30 classrooms, primarily for students in the first through fifth grade, and six kindergarten classrooms. There are gifted-and-talented resource rooms, early childhood and regional early childhood center and outdoor classroom areas, including an amphitheater.

Classrooms on the first floor -- pre-kindergarten through the second grade -- have a bathroom inside each room. On the second floor, where third through fifth grade classes are held, four of the classrooms each have a bathroom.

Bathrooms are required by building specifications for all kindergarten through second grade classrooms in new and renovated schools, according to Scott Washington, the district’s director of capital planning and construction.

About 20,000 books fill the bookshelves in the school’s first-floor media center. On the second floor, there are two art and music rooms, an orchestra room and a band room.

The $40 million school, which can hold 838 students, took 3 1/2 years to design and construct, according to Washington.

The school was built to ease crowding at Ducketts Lane Elementary School, Rockburn Elementary School and Deep Run Elementary School, according to Washington.

The school “is creating immediate relief at those three schools, but it is also creating long-term relief for students who will live in the new developments in that area that are still being built,” said Brian Bassett, a schools spokesman.

About 400 students were moved from Ducketts Lane Elementary and about 100 students from both Rockburn and Deep Run elementary schools, according to Leslie Harmon, assistant principal at Hanover Hills.

The three elementary schools had addressed overcrowding with portable classrooms. Ducketts Lane had nine temporary classrooms that are being removed, but ones at Deep Run and Rockburn elementary schools are remaining, according to Bassett.

The school, adjacent to Thomas Viaduct Middle School in Hanover off Coca Cola Drive, is in an area where more housing developments are planned.

“I can’t wait to see all the kids come in on the first day … they are going to be so excited,” Harmon said. Harmon has worked in the school system since 2003, most recently as Bollman Bridge Elementary School’s assistant principal and as special education department.

The school is one of 12 in the school system designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design efficiency standards.

Hanover Hills features several energy saving components, including using with large windows and skylights for natural light, according to Washington.

The school’s mascot is a Siberian Husky and its colors are navy and gray. Students voted on the mascot and colors.

Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon, Todd said he was looking forward to showcasing to all the families that a mission of the new school is to create a culture encompassing all of the three elementary feeder schools.

“I want to a deliver a message and a create a vibe where families in the community feel this is a welcoming, warm environment, where families feel happy their children are coming to this building,” Todd said.

jnocera@baltsun.com

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