For 51 years, generations of Brooklyn Park families have been educated at Park Elementary, a red-brick building in the first block of E. 11th Avenue next to the community library.
In the fall, students arriving for classes will be the last ones to use the building. Construction crews are busy from sunup to sundown erecting a new Park Elementary behind the old one, which will be leveled and converted to a parking lot.
The new, $1.9-million school, which is to be completed by next July, will provide relief from problems of the existing building -- radiators without covers, threadbare carpets in classrooms and a boys' bathroom in need of new urinals and floor tile.
Parents lobbied several years for a new school, taking school officials and politicians on tours of Park to show them what they had to endure.
Although the school is filled with memories, Diane L. Lenzi, principal for five years, said she is glad to be moving. "I won't miss the fires, the floods, the cockroaches and the mice," said Mrs. Lenzi, 45. "I can't think of anything I'm going to miss."
The new Park Elementary, designed to hold 600 students, will be twice as large as the old one to accommodate future growth. Unlike the old school, it will have air conditioning that can be controlled in individual classrooms. The classrooms will be self-contained, each with its own bathroom, lockers, telephone, videocassette recorder, computer and door leading to the playgrounds.
The old school opened in November 1944 with 12 classrooms.
As Baltimore's steel mills, shipyards and chemical companies expanded to meet the needs of World War II, families looking for work and homes had moved into northern Anne Arundel County, creating the need for a school.
In 1943, the county bought about 6 acres from the Pumphreys, a prominent North County family, for about $30,000, but didn't have enough money to build a school. The federal government contributed $85,000, and construction on what then was known as Brooklyn Park Primary School began in May 1944.
Eventually, an addition was built and the school's name changed to Park Elementary. Now it has 560 students and 35 teachers, some of whom once were students at the school.
As they prepare to move, school staff members have been cleaning an old bomb shelter built in 1950s as a haven in case of an atomic blast. They found old redwood benches, a 1950 toy fire engine, cots and food, Mrs. Lenzi said.
The parent-teacher organization plans to sell bricks from the old school to raise money.
Darlene K. Borggreen, 30, graduated from the school 1977. Now, she lives nearby and works as a secretary at the school. Her son, Robert, is a sixth-grader there and her daughter, Angela, a second-grader.
The school has "been here so long," said Mrs. Borggreen, who recalled Maypole dances and school plays.
"It's been such a big part of my life with me and my children coming here and now me working here. It's going to be a landmark that will be missed," she said.
Although longtime Brooklyn Park residents said they will miss the old building, they also will be happy to send their children to a new school.
There were times when parents thought they never would get a new school, said Donna J. Schramek, former chairwoman of the Park Elementary Citizens Advisory Council.
But when state and county officials approved the project, she said, it was as if "the weight of the world was lifted off of our shoulders."