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PenMar to donate $1 million to school

December 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CASCADE -- The PenMar Development Corp. will donate $1 million to Washington County Public Schools to modernize Cascade Elementary School.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she believes this is the largest donation the school system has received from a single donor.

The donation was announced Tuesday, and PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said the improvements will help draw people to the Cascade area when homes and businesses are built at the former Fort Ritchie site that closed in September 1998.

More than 650 housing units are planned for the site within the next 15 to 20 years. The 600-acre former military base is being developed by Corporate Office Properties Trust, a Columbia, Md., company.

"We do realize that the schools are a draw to any community," said Phil Ulzheimer, vice chairman of the PenMar board.

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The $1 million will be spent on improvement projects that Rook said the board would like to see completed within the next two years. Those include new windows and doors throughout the building, new lights, a ceiling replacement project and air conditioning in parts of the building, according to Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael.

Fire protection, security, Americans with Disability (ADA) compliance projects and additional parking also will be part of the upgrades.

He said the modernization would give the elementary school - portions of which were built in 1924 - a "face lift."

Cascade is the oldest building in use in the Washington County Public Schools system. It was renovated in 1965.

Cascade Principal Rose Pellegrino said the school does need renovations, and that she hopes they begin with air conditioning, which the school does not have.

Pellegrino said she expects some improvement projects to begin soon.

The Washington County Board of Education was required to approve the donation - which it did, 7-0 - before the school system could receive the money.

"As fast as the board voted to accept the check, it was one of the fastest motions that the PenMar Development Board accepted as well," Ulzheimer said. "We think that helping the kids of the county is one of the most important things we can do with funds we've been collecting over the years."

PenMar's money comes from the sale and lease of the property.

"This is a fine example of a public-private partnership that not only benefits the students, but also supports redevelopment of an important historical community in Washington County," Morgan said. "We're thankful for (PenMar's) generous commitment toward modernizing this school and improving the surrounding area."

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