Gift allows school to grow; Classrooms, gym are among priorities for free Severn land


Thanks to an unexpected donation of 60 acres last fall, the Annapolis Area Christian School is planning to expand to Severn over the next few decades.

Plans the school has submitted to the county detail an expansive campus including ball fields, a gym, media center, nearly 30 classrooms and a performing arts center. The five-phase building project could stretch over decades, but the school has agreed to construct the first three phases -- the fields, parking, and its high school -- within 20 years.

"What we're doing is expanding our school to relocate our middle and upper school to that property," said Ron Whipple, the school's superintendent. "We're pretty close to capacity. One of our biggest needs is for athletic fields."

The land on Burns Crossing Road in Severn was donated by the estate of Emma Sulin, mother of former state Del. Victor A. Sulin; she died in 1989.

The horseshoe-shaped property had been given to a Lutheran high school in Washington in accordance with Emma Sulin's wishes, but the land reverted to the estate about three years ago when that school tried to sell it to a developer.

Last year, Sulin offered the property to charitable groups, eyeing their proposals to build facilities for troubled youth and Boy Scout groups. In October, he decided to give the land to Annapolis Area Christian School.

"Annapolis Area Christian School came with an excellent proposal," Sulin said. "It definitely carried out the desire of my mother."

The first phase of construction calls for building athletic fields, an access road and a parking lot for 54 cars, according to the plans submitted to the county.

The high school with 17 classrooms, a gym and another 248 parking spaces would come next. A media center, music space and a middle school with 10 classrooms would follow. Long-term plans call for additions to the school buildings, 150 more parking spaces and a performing arts center.

Almost 800 students attend classes at the 28-year-old school's two campuses in Annapolis, Whipple said. The grade school is at Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Ridgely Road, and the middle and high schools are on Bestgate Road.

Because of the troubles the Sulin family has had donating the property since Emma Sulin died, the transfer of the land was contingent upon the school carrying out its plans to build within 20 years.

Not a problem, said Whipple.

"It really is a miracle. We're extremely thankful for it," he said.

He would not discuss the building timetable because the school wants to formally announce its plans to the community at a Sept. 28 meeting.

But planners have already submitted site plans for county review, which is a precursor to seeking a grading permit, said John A. Morris, spokesman for the county Land Use Office. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 2, according to a letter from the school's building committee chairman. The letter also said the school's board of directors was vigorously seeking permit approvals so the board could announce them at the groundbreaking.

Mike Shylanski, president of the Greater Severn Improvement Association, welcomed news of the development.

"It's kind of an impressive-looking facility," he said.

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