Since Patuxent Valley Middle School opened its doors in 1989, the building has undergone no major renovations. That's about to change.

The Howard County Board of Education approved a schematic design report last month for a significant renovation to the Jessup school.


"Patuxent Valley is 25 years old," said Bruce Gist, the school system's director of school construction. "The purpose of this project is to extend the life of this building another 25 years."

Last fall, parents at the school said the building was starting to show its age and were chagrined that renovations might be postponed because of a lack of funding. Now, the school's overhaul is on track, and school officials said if the proposed timeline holds, work could begin next winter.

The $21.7 million project entails a complete renovation of the building, including a new mechanical and electrical system. Clustered teaching stations will be turned into self-contained classrooms, and there will be a new health suite.

One of the most notable aspects will be an addition for administrative offices on the first floor — which are now on the second floor of the building. The project's architects said such a move will increase the school's security by funneling visitors into the main office upon entering.

"One of the things we found a little odd, and we're hoping to address this, is that when you enter the building at the main entrance, you come into a stair tower," said Rod Frey Jr., senior project manager at Gilbert Architects. "You have to be buzzed into [the vestibule] by the office on the second floor. The only way they see you is through a camera."

A 2,840 square-foot addition will be built along the north side of the building adjacent to the main entrance for the office, as well as the new health suite. Another 860 square-foot addition will be on the northeast corner of the building to also accommodate the offices and health suite, and a classroom and extension of an existing corridor.

The renovations, approved by the board Jan. 23, could include the demolition of an existing six-classroom section attached to the main school building by a corridor, used by sixth-grade students. The classroom space would be added back through a 3,700 square-foot addition on the south side of the building. That plan is an add-alternate, but board members supported the move as part of a final plan.

"[Sixth-grade] students need to come into the building to go to lunch or physical education," or go all the way across the building to go to the science labs or upstairs for art, music and family and consumer science, Frey said.

The second floor will hold special education classrooms and the gifted and talented planning room. Patuxent Valley Principal Robert Motely said the renovations would include a widening of the stairwells to make student transit easier.

"That was one of the issues on the table — the concern about the staircase," Motely said, after board member Sandra French raised a concern over the "narrow" stairs at the school.

If the project moves forward on schedule, with the appropriate funds from the state and local levels, construction would start January 2015 and be completed by August 2017. Capacity at the school — 760 students, not including the sixth-grade modular classrooms — will remain the same.

Gist said he also anticipates the finished school to be certified with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council, in part because of a geothermal HVAC system.