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Barbara Ingram School holds first day of class

August 19, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The students who passed through the doors of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts on Wednesday will be linked forever by a common bond.

They are the first to attend the school, which opened its doors for the first time Wednesday in downtown Hagerstown.

"To whom much is given, much is expected," Principal Michael Thorsen told the students during a speech in the school's theater. "You are part of a very, very special group of people. Make sure you take care of this wonderful gift you have been given."

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts at 7-11 S. Potomac St. is one of 150 schools in the United States that offers high school students college preparatory courses in academics and the arts, Thorsen said. Students had to audition for the opportunity to attend the school, and were chosen based on their talent in music, theater, dance or visual arts.

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Construction began in December 2007 and was completed in April of this year, Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright said. The total cost of the school was about $10 million, but the exact amount won't be known until all of the paperwork is completed in two or three months, he said.

Although 161 students will attend the school this academic year, officials would like to see enrollment reach 300, according to school documents. The students come from Washington County and the surrounding area.

Heather Butts said she was accepted to attend the school for the arts in April, but the reality of her accomplishment didn't sink in until Wednesday morning.

"It didn't really hit me until I got on the bus that I wasn't going to Williamsport (High School)," said Heather, 15. "It's a really exciting opportunity. It's nice to be around people who are involved in the same thing I am."

A handful of students -- some carrying violins and guitars -- began to arrive at the back entrance of the school a little before 9 a.m. They had to wait outside for a few minutes until the doors were unlocked.

Like any other first day of school, a few students had scheduling problems and difficulty opening lockers. For the most part, however, the faculty and staff made sure everything ran smoothly.

The students were told during orientation they have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average to stay at the school.

"I'm nervous," said Caitlin McPherson, 14, of Hagerstown. "I kind of know what to expect, but I'm going to have to get used to it."

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the community's support of the school is proof that Western Marylanders love their children.

"This school is going to be the envy of Maryland," Munson said. "I don't doubt it for a minute."

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