MOUNT AIRY -- When Twin Ridge Elementary opens for classes Aug. 31, it will become a melting pot for hundreds of students redistricted from four schools in two counties.
The new school, which is nestled in the rolling hills between Route 144, Prospect Road and Leafy Hollow Circle, is the first Frederick County public school within Mount Airy's town limits.
Construction of the $6.8 million facility began last August by general contractor H.A. Harris Inc. of Baltimore, said Daniel Gadra, superintendent of Planning and Facilities for Frederick County Public Schools.
Although permit problems initially delayed construction, the project is on schedule, Mr. Gadra said.
"It's been very tight," he said. "It was an unusual situation because it was necessary to go through Carroll County for certain permits and approval of the storm water management plan."
Teachers and staff preparing for the first day of classes have had limited access to the two-story modified T-shaped building as work crews finish the project. Full occupancy of the 69,000-square-foot, air-conditioned facility is expected today.
Mr. Gadra said Twin Ridge will ease overcrowded conditions at three Frederick County elementary schools: New Market, Liberty and Kemptown.
"The major relief will be to New Market," he said, adding Twin Ridge has the capacity for 670 students.
A booming enrollment at the new school recently has prompted the employment of one additional half-time kindergarten teacher and two full-time teachers for the first and fourth grades, said Emily Sines, Twin Ridge's principal.
"We are regrouping," she said, estimating that the school will open with 646 children in preschool special education classes through fifth grade. "The good news is that we will have smaller class sizes averaging 24 students per class."
Althea Miller, principal of the Main Street school, said Frederick County parents welcome the opening of Twin Ridge and will enjoy having a school so close. "That's a real convenience," she said.
Parents of Twin Ridge students began meeting as a Parent Advisory Committee last September and formed a Parent Teacher Association in February, said Jane O'Connor, PTA president.
Mrs. O'Connor said the PTA will receive the Blue Achievement Award at the state PTA convention in November for its accomplishments, which include addressing concerns about the school's construction near Meyers Liquid Fertilizer Co.
"It is very unusual for a new PTA to get this [award] before the school has even opened," said Debbie Bostian, president of Frederick County's PTA Council.
There has been a great need for Twin Ridge, said Tracy Mullinix, who attended the picnic with her husband and five daughters, two of whom attended school in New Market last year.
"Their classrooms had 30 kids each," she said. "It was a ride for them, and now it's only two minutes."
Susanne Breeden, a guidance secretary in Montgomery County, said it will be more convenient for her son to attend a Frederick County school because of the differences between the calendars. She also is pleased that Twin Ridge will offer the YMCA's Before and After School day care program.
"It will be a new year with new challenges," said Stacy Cleckley, whose daughter will attend third grade in the new school. "She's excited and it's closer."
Teachers and staff are also enthusiastic about working in the new school.
"I requested the transfer" to Twin Ridge, said reading specialist Judy Stup. "Mrs. Sines is allowing the school to become what the teachers and parents want it to be."