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Science teacher Samuel Davis borrowed a word from the students' lexicon to describe Mayfield Woods Middle School: "awesome."

Davis, who came to the new school from 22-year-old Wilde Lake Middle School, spills out his feelings in sentences like:

"The enthusiasm here at this school is wonderful," and "It's got great stuff and neat people."

The stream and wetlands on the property will be ideal for ecology studies, he added.

The $10.8 millioncream-and-tan building on Red Barn Way off Mayfield Avenue opens forclasses Tuesday morning.

But the approximately 530 students had achance to visit their school Thursday for orientation sessions.

Some didn't wait for the official tour. Principal Jesse K. Smith said some students from the neighborhood dropped in last month and volunteered to carry out trash or move cartons.

About half the student body will be made up of students from Wilde Lake Middle, where Smith had been principal for 9 1/2 years before being appointed in 1990 to start planning the opening of Mayfield Woods. At "get-acquainted" sessions last spring, he met students coming to Mayfield Woods from Ellicott Mills Middle, Phelps Luck, Worthington, Deep Run and Waterloo.

The school's design, a splitlevel with what Smith described as a "mall atmosphere-type foyer," is unique in Howard County.

The design is based on an intermediate school in Virginia, he said.

"Lately, it seems that many, many kids like to hang out at the mall," the principal said. The building was designed by architects Samaha and Strang of Fairfax, Va.

Smith said selecting the teachers, custodians and other support staff was the most difficult part of opening the new school. He had an average of five applicants for each of the 41.5 teaching positions available.

"In order to select one, I had to deny others, and there were good people I had to turn down," he said.

Mayfield Woods PTA President Cynthia R. Schnaar said her goal is to "make parents and students as involved as we can."

Parents will help with the formal opening exercise on the first day of school.

Volunteers will check the absentee lists daily and call parents who did notleave messages on the school answering machine reporting that their children would be absent.

Schnaar said PTA leaders will meet with faculty to ask where parents' help is needed. The organization plans to raise money for cultural arts activities, work with guidance counselors to arrange sessions on being a good parent and may volunteer tolandscape the front of the school, she said.

Schnaar said redistricting has not been a pleasant experience for her older children, buther son Gregory, 11, looked forward to Mayfield Woods after seeing aslide show Smith presented at the get-acquainted sessions.

"Even though his (Gregory's) brother and sister have been at Wilde Lake, this will be his first experience with middle school, and he's really excited abut it," she said.

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