Baltimore Lutheran School will open a middle school next year at a church in Bel Air while officials negotiate for a 40-acre site in central Harford County where a middle and upper school will be built.
School officials said yesterday that the middle school - for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders - will hold classes at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in the 1200 block of Churchville Road while site planning and tests are completed on the proposed building site. School officials declined to identify the site because they have not signed a purchase agreement.
"We are bursting at the seams here," said Jacquelin K. Seaborn, director of admissions at the 24-acre Towson campus off Cromwell Bridge Road, where more than 500 students are enrolled in sixth through 12th grades.
The Towson campus added five portable classrooms this year to ease crowding until a 35,000- to 45,000-square-foot arts and worship center can be built. A contractor is expected to be chosen this fall.
"We have a need for a school in Harford County," Seaborn said. "We are not starting a brand-new school, since we already have the curriculum in place. We want to start small and not just throw something together."
Kyle Chuhran, the new middle school principal, said he is expecting 40 to 50 pupils for the 2003-2004 school year, but could handle as many as 80.
The Bel Air school will start with sixth, seventh and eighth grades. It will add a ninth grade the next year and one grade each subsequent year. Seaborn said the Harford school will be a mirror image of the Towson campus, with the same curriculum and tuition.
"We want to capture the atmosphere that we have here and convey it there," she said.
The school will be named the Baltimore Lutheran School Harford County Campus to make clear its ties to the Towson campus. Baltimore Lutheran School opened in 1965.
"People already identify with the school here and know what it stands for," Chuhran said.
Headmaster Randal C. Gast said residents in Harford County, where alternatives to public school are limited, were enthusiastic about the new Christian school. Gast, who will oversee both campuses, said the Lutheran population has moved up the Interstate 95 corridor. He estimated that about 30 pupils who commute to Baltimore Lutheran from Harford County may transfer to the new location.
Seaborn said St. Matthew has a large classroom area and a gymnasium for physical education classes and extracurricular activities. She estimated it will take about two years for construction to begin on the school, which will be about the same size as the Towson campus.
"We like to walk the halls and know the students," she said.
Chuhran plans to move into his office in Bel Air at the end of the week. He hopes to begin interviewing prospective teachers next month.
Some of the staff from Towson will be going to Harford County with him. Chuhran said he needs five full-time and several part-time teachers; the final number will depend on enrollment.
Meanwhile, he is working on brochures and meeting with Lutheran ministers in Harford County to talk about the school. He said the middle school will have a music program, with a band and choir. Depending on enrollment and interest, he said, the school may field soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, baseball and softball teams.
"It will be a full-fledged school," Chuhran said.