New Youth's Benefit Elementary School building in Fallston now open to all students

All Youth’s Benefit Elementary School students attended classes under one roof Monday, the culmination of a $37.1 million three-year construction project to rebuild the main elementary school serving greater Fallston.

“The kids are excited, staff is excited, we’re excited,” Joe Licata, chief of administration for Harford County Public Schools, said Monday evening.

The first part of the 140,000 square-foot building opened for the primary grades — kindergarten, first grade and second grade — last August at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

The intermediate section of the building, for third, fourth and fifth graders, was scheduled to open in time for the start of the current school year in early September.

School officials announced in May, however, that those students could not occupy their part of the building until November because of construction issues, specifically related to the foundation and concrete slabs which then delayed the rest of the process.

It was expected that all other facilities, such as the media center and computer lab, would be ready in time, but not the classrooms.

The classrooms finally were ready Monday, according to Licata.

He said HCPS staff and the contractor will prepare to demolish the now-former intermediate building, which opened in 1973, and complete a bus loop that serves the entire building.

The primary grades’ building, which opened in 1953 and served generations of Fallston-area children has already been torn down.

Youth’s Benefit has 1,041 students enrolled, according to the HCPS website, making it the largest in terms of enrollment of Harford County’s 33 elementary schools.

The building has capacity for 1,130 students.

Board of Education Vice President Laura Runyeon, who represents the Fallston area, was emotional as she read a statement during Monday’s school board meeting to mark the occasion.

“This project reflects the collective effort of many people,” she said.

Runyeon has been one of many community leaders working since the late 1990s to convince county and state leaders to fund construction of a replacement to Youth’s Benefit’s aging facilities.

Nancy Reynolds, her colleague on the board, said Runyeon “advocated for the school for years and years, very effectively and very hard.”

Runyeon said 1,000 students and more than 100 staffers were under one roof Monday “for the first time after more than three years of construction and 16 years of advocacy.”

Runyeon thanked Licata and HCPS facilities and construction staff for their commitment and perseverance throughout the project, and she honored principal Thomas Smith and his staff “for their incredible leadership during these years of construction.”

“I know it was not easy to manage an enormous construction project while also maintaining the demanding challenges of running one our largest elementary schools,” she said.

Runyeon thanked Superintendent Barbara Canavan for her support, as well as Youth’s Benefit teachers, staff, students and their families.

“I am delighted to see the reward for their patience as this project came to fruition today,” she said.

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