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Ground broken on new Antietam Academy building

September 15, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- With 14 shovelfuls of soil, Washington County and Board of Education officials broke ground Tuesday morning for the building they hope will serve as a new beginning for Antietam Academy and the students it serves.

Sandwiched between Washington County Technical High School and E. Russell Hicks Middle School near the intersection of South Potomac Street and West Oak Ridge Drive, the new 45,000-square-foot building will house both the middle and high school programs for Antietam Academy, the county's school for students who have had trouble in a regular school setting.

It also will house the county's Evening High School program.

The Antietam Academy middle school program operates at Western Heights Middle School on Marshall Street, and the Antietam Academy high school program has been without a permanent home since a fire destroyed its building in March. This school year, it has been meeting in portable classrooms on the South Hagerstown High School campus.

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The $14.5 million project could be completed by November 2010 and the schools probably will move in midway through next school year, with classes starting in the new building after winter break, said Boyd Michael, deputy superintendent for Washington County Public Schools.

Board of Education President Wayne D. Ridenour said the new school is part of the board's vision of providing the best possible facilities and opportunities to every student, including "those who find the smooth road to success and those who sometimes travel a more bumpy road, but still ultimately get to where they need to be."

School system superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said research has indicated new schools promote both higher achievement and better behavior, and she thanked the Washington County Commissioners and the school board for helping provide the best possible learning environment for the Antietam Academy and Evening High students.

"I think that the students who need the most deserve the most from us, so I thank everybody for helping this to happen," she said.

Commissioners President John F. Barr said the commissioners were pleased to be a part of building the county's fourth new school in less than three years.

Barr also took the opportunity to tease Antietam Academy High School principal Ivan "Ike" Williams.

"Ike," he said, "Wayne and I say no more whining, you're getting your new school."

The new building will face the technical high school and share its West Oak Ridge Drive entrance, but it will have its own parking lots, said project architect Danielle Wilson of Bethesda, Md.-based Grimm + Parker Architects.

Officials wanted a long, one-story building so teachers and administrators can easily monitor hallways and so there will be no stairwells in which students could loiter, Wilson said.

The school will be the county's first built with geothermal heating and cooling, which uses the earth's temperature to heat and cool the building and is more efficient over time, Wilson said.

The building design also features large windows in classrooms and high windows to provide natural light to hallways.

"The goal of the building is to be light, bright and airy, to create something dynamic to really enhance students' performance," Wilson said.

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