Stoneleigh Elementary given approval for move to Carver school building for 2012-13

After compiling the results of a survey of students' families, Stoneleigh Elementary School administrators announced Thursday that the school will move everything from pupils to playground equipment to the soon-to-be-vacant Carver Center for the Arts and Technology next year.

In a letter to parents, officials said the move will allow for Stoneleigh's renovation and addition project to take place more rapidly.

"Input was solicited from the community, with an overwhelming majority favoring the Carver option rather than remaining in a building under renovation," school officials said in the letter.

"The input was given to the BCPS Superintendent Dr. Joe A. Hairston, and he has given his approval to the temporary relocation to the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology School for the school year 2012-2013."

"I think it's exciting that my daughter will have third grade at Carver, and get to come back and have a new elementary school," said Juliet Fisher, mother of a second- and a fifth-grader at Stoneleigh this year and a leader of the advocacy group Stoneleigh United.

"That's the most any of us can hope for, that the project will go quickly and smoothly," she said. "We're all on board and ready for this adventure."

Once the school year got under way, the addition and renovation project moved to the forefront for parents and administrators.

A meeting was held for parents Oct. 4, at which the plans for the addition and renovation were presented.

At that meeting, parents were also presented with an opportunity to decide, in a sense, how quickly the project would be finished.

With a new Carver Center opening for the 2012-13 school year, Stoneleigh parents had the option of sending children on what principal Christine Warner called a "180-day field trip" to the old Carver building for the upcoming year — a move that would allow the construction to be completed in 15 months — or staying at Stoneleigh and having the construction workers work around the students, and vice versa.

One week after the initial meeting, parents were taken on a tour of Carver and shown how the building would be laid out and altered for the elementary school students.

Bathrooms will be added in the cosmetology wing, where the kindergarten classes will go; the school's Black Box theater will become the cafeteria; and all but one grade level will be clustered in its own wing.

"The space is wonderful, and the classrooms are a great size," Michelle Gutberlet, mother of a Stoneleigh kindergartner and a second-grader, said after the tour. "I think it's a great opportunity for us, and I'm thrilled this is available."

According to the letter, the move to Carver "allows Baltimore County Public Schools to maximize student and staff safety, utilize available resources efficiently and effectively, as well as reduce the project construction schedule by 12 months while maintaining the integrity of a strong instructional program."

Were students to stay at Stoneleigh, the project would take an estimated 27 months to complete instead of 15. The letter to parents said the project will now be completed in time for the 2013-14 school year.

In July, the Towson-based design firm Rubeling & Associates was chosen to design the addition.

A month later, the addition advanced 18 spots to No. 5 on the list of Hairston's proposed state capital budget priorities, making it the highest-ranked project that had not yet received state financing.

Now, with the plans in place and a temporary home for the students set for when their school is gutted, all that's left is the most important component: money.

By choosing Carver and its shorter time frame for construction, Stoneleigh parents chopped $2 million off the project's price tag, which Fisher said would have been "ridiculous" not to take advantage of given the financial state of the county.

Fisher said she's heard indicators that the state financing is likely to come through because the cheaper option of spending a year at Carver is really only a one-year option, with the building slated for demolition after Stoneleigh uses it.

"I think the county understands that the funding has to happen now," Fisher said. "I'm always cautiously optimistic, but I'm pretty optimistic that the funding will come through."

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