Ground broken for new Dundalk High, Sollers Point
Thursday, 28 October 2010 11:21

Participating in the official groundbreaking of the new Dundalk High and Sollers Point Technical schools last week were (from left) Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick, Dundalk High freshman Caz Jefferson, Del. John Olszewski Jr., Del. Michael Weir Jr., State Sen. Norman R. Stone, Baltimore County Board of Education president Earnest Hines, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Sollers Point Tech principal Diane Young, former Sollers Point principal Ed Parker, county councilman John Olszewski Sr., Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Hairston, Dundalk PTSA president Debbie Smith, PTSA member Gwen Phillips and Dundalk High principal Tom Shouldice.    photo by Bill Gates

Facility set to open in 2013

by Bill Gates

    Now starts the countdown to 2013.
    Construction of the new Dundalk High and Sollers Point Technical schools officially began last week with the ceremonial scooping and flinging of dirt from a dozen shovels.
    “By the way, Dundalk also has some pretty good topsoil,” quipped Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Hairston after the formal groundbreaking on Thursday at Dundalk High.
    Over the next three years, the facility that will house both Dundalk High and Sollers Point Tech will gradually take shape on the ground now occupied by the county school bus depot and the Dundalk High athletic field in the “bowl.”
    It will be a 365,307 square-foot, state-of-the-art comprehensive high school and technology high school on the 49.75-acre Dundalk High campus.
    It will also be linked to CCBC Dundalk, which will be, literally, right across the street.
    “This will become the educational engine of Dundalk,” Dundalk High principal Tom Shouldice said during the ceremony proceeding the groundbreaking. “Our two schools in the same building, and with CCBC being right there, will be one of the best facilities in the nation.”
    The combination of a comprehensive high school, technical school and junior college “will be a model for the state, as well as the nation,” Hairston said.
    “A community that cares for its young is a quality community,” Hairston said. “And the commitment that has been made to bring us to this day has been quite significant.
    “These two schools have endured a great deal. It’s time for them to take their place as a model for the school system.”
    The project will cost nearly $79 million, with $48,183,000 coming from Baltimore County and $30,468,000 from the state.
    Simply renovating each of the two existing buildings separately would have cost around $110 million.
    When it opens in 2013, the facility will have a capacity of 1,857 students and include a 485-seat auditorium, a gymnasium and auxiliary gymnasium, and a sunlight-filled central media center with crossover bridges between the two schools.
    A large entrance lobby will provide access to these shared areas as well as a streetscape that will run down the center of the building.
    The current freshmen class, the Class of 2014, will be the first graduating class from the two schools.
    The Dundalk High side of the facility, which will open on Delvale Avenue, will feature labs and classrooms for visual arts; vocal and instrumental music; homeland security; language arts; computer and technology education; communications broadcasting and production; JROTC; a teacher academy; physics, biology; earth sciences; and a greenhouse.
    The athletic suite will include a fitness room, weight room, wrestling room, team rooms and locker rooms.
    Sollers Point, with an entrance off of Sollers Point Road, will feature labs and classroom space for salon and spa management; construction management; automotive service and diesel technology; allied health; engineering technicians and welding; culinary arts; technology education; maritime studies; sciences; computer technology; and intern coordination suites.
    The culinary arts department will include a full cooking and baking kitchen/lab and a café.
    The culinary arts students at Sollers Point displayed their craft by providing refreshments for the groundbreaking, which included a cake, various chocolate-covered fruits and freshly-made apple cider, while the Dundalk High JROTC directed traffic to the event and provided the color guard for the flag and the Dundalk High choir sang the national anthem.
    “We are creating a facility of 21st-Century learning today,” Sollers Point Tech principal Diane Young said during the ceremony proceeding the groundbreaking. “This is instrumental in the renaissance of Dundalk. These two schools will become the center of the community.”
    The current schools will remain in use until the new facility opens in the fall of 2013. Both schools will then be demolished, with a parking lot and athletic fields being built on the grounds currently occupied by Dundalk High.
    The new athletic fields could include a stadium with a grandstand, artificial turf and lights, but that has yet to be confirmed.
    “This project would  not have happened without community support,” County Executive Jim Smith said. “It’s taken off because of the people who live here, the buy-in of the people who live here, and the ownership of the people who live here.”

Started with a video

    The project also came about because of a video shown to county councilman John Olszewski Sr.
    “It was a video, that turned into a meeting, that became a reality,” Olszewski said. “It was a video of the deplorable conditions at Dundalk High School.”
    That video started the process that eventually led to last week’s groundbreaking.
    The new facility should help Dundalk High retain quality students who now leave the community for private schools and magnet schools, Olszewski said.
    Scott Holupka of the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation also sees the new school as a boon to the Dundalk High athletic program
    “You have to have players, and they have to be academically eligible,” Holupka said. “To get that kind of turnaround, you need kids who are excited, motivated and wanting to do well. The buzz for the new school has already helped turn some of the teams around.”
    The possibility of playing in the aforementioned stadium should also help keep students excited and motivated.
    “We are going to work on getting a stadium built,” Olszewski said. “We’ll continue with that, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Alumni pride
    Olszewski is one of many people involved in planning the new school who is also a Dundalk High alumnus.
    “Being a graduate, I’m very happy to have played a major part in making this happen by helping bring to light the deplorable conditions in the school,” said Olszewski, a member of the Class of 1978. “That’s when the game plan came together.”
    Olszewski helped put together a task force which looked at conditions at the school and came up with recommendations.
    “A group of us, teachers, administrators, community members, looked at the issues the school had,” said Holpka, also an Owl alumnus.
    “Even in our wildest dreams, we never thought it was possible to get a new school.”
    As an alumnus, but particularly as a father, Holupka said he was proud and excited to have played a role.
    “If we do this right, it will be a model not just locally, but nationally,” Holupka said. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.”
    For Ed Parker, a member of the Baltimore County School Board, a former Sollers Point principal and a 1955 graduate of Dundalk High (in the building which is now Dundalk Middle School), the new school facility presents “no limits to what the opportunities could be, what could happen.
    “I can’t say enough about the people in the county government who helped bring this about. They saw something that wasn’t satisfactory to them, went to the decision-makers, were patient, and allowed the school system to go through what it had to do. Thus, we got more than we thought we’d get,” Parker said.

Turner Station  Community Center
    Earlier last week, ground was broken for the new community center in Turner Station.
    The ceremony took place on Oct. 18 next to Sollers Point Technical High School.
    The current Sollers Point Tech, on Sollers Point Road in Turner Station, will be demolished when the new facility is completed in 2013.
    The $7.4 million Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center will offer residents an auditorium, gymnasium, full-service county library and a community museum.
    Construction of the 28,000-square foot facility is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1. It will also include space for civic and church groups, as well as area youth and seniors.
    The historic track at Sollers Point Tech will also be retained for use by the community after the school is demolished.