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Gaining ground in schools


BROOKLYN PARK Middle School has changed a lot since the last time students and teachers occupied its space.

First, there's much more space. Second, it's not a high school anymore. And third, it's a gleaming testament to what's possible when county government and schools officials think creatively.

The building, located near the Baltimore City border, sparkled last week in preparation for the new school year. The smell of ammonia filled the air while workers put finishing touches on the school's portion of the complex.

Brooklyn Park looks good. The county reinvested in an old building and created a middle school/creative-arts-center/senior-citizen complex that be open during and after school hours.

The once-crumbling school compound has glass canopies over three front entrances, a large lobby, a colorful "cafetorium" (cafeteria/auditorium) and a media center with two-story windows.

Thanks to taxpayers, the complex also will house the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, which includes an auditorium to be shared by the school and arts community. This model hasworked well elsewhere, including Columbia's Wilde Lake High School, which houses the Jim Rouse Theater for the Performing Arts.

Brooklyn Park's renovation was sorely needed to help Anne Arundel County make up ground in its massive school construction and repair backlog. This project started during the administration of former County Executive John G. Gary. His successor, Janet S. Owens, has poured a bundle of money into school buildings. The county's needs were estimated two years ago at $400 million. That's a tall order, but the county's starting to fill it.

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