The Harbour School opens its doors today to a new beginning.
The school, which opened in 1982 with just four students in one room, has grown to 54 students. And those 54 students now need a lot more than one room.
Which is why the school, which teaches children with learning and physical disabilities, has moved from Annapolis to its new location, a 25,000-square-foot, 14-classroom building on the Broadneck Peninsula.
"It's plenty of space for now," said Dr. Linda Jacobs, the school's director and founder, adding, "but there's room to grow."
Harbour is the only school in the state that offers kindergarten through grade 12 for students with learning and physical disabilities. The school draws students from Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, Prince George's and Talbot counties. Its fully accredited high school offers a diploma approved by the Maryland State Board of Education.
Last week, the school's students and their parents moved furniture and unpacked boxes in their new home at 1277 Green Holly Drive.
"The parents are tremendously supportive," Dr. Jacobs said. "The parents and the teachers did all the painting here. All of the parents made donations and helped with our fund raising."
Dr. Jacobs said moving into the new building, a former medical center about 15 years old, cost about $1.4 million. About $237,000 was spent on renovations. The school, which is continuing to hold fund-raising activities, is about $50,000 away from its goal, she added.
Dr. Jacobs has worked in the field of special education for over 30 years. She said she decided to open the Harbour School to do special education "right."
"We offer a 1-to-4 teacher-pupil ratio, flexible programs, individual support and caring," Dr. Jacobs said. "We have an intensive clinical team with a clinical social worker, a psychologist, speech and language pathologists.
"The public schools do a good job, but we have a small size, and that allows us to provide more individual attention," she added.
Chris Schanne, 14, has been attending the school for 1 1/2 years. The Glen Burnie youth said he has seen an improvement in his ability to learn.
"When I came here I could just barely read," Chris said. "Now the teachers say I've improved a lot. I just like it more."
Pence Potter of Severna Park said he brought his 10-year-old son P.J. to the school two years ago. P.J., who has hearing and learning disabilities, was not getting the services he needed in the public school system.
But Mr. Potter said he has seen a change since his son began attending the Harbour School.
"He's real happy here," Mr. Potter said. "He's starting to initiate things. He wouldn't even try certain things. Now, he says, 'I can.' "