DUNDALK — County and school officials were on hand last week with their hard hats and shovels to break ground on the new Colgate Elementary School in Dundalk.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr.; Baltimore County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Verletta White; Rodney McMillion, Board of Education member representing the 7th district of Baltimore County; and District 6 elected officials — including the currently controversial Republican Robin Grammer — came together on a gorgeous morning to celebrate the more than $40 million building, which is due to open for the 2020-2021 school year.

The new 88,123 square foot building will almost double the size of its 49,860 square foot predecessor, which was built in 1924.

The new Colgate Elementary School will able to hold 530 students — which is more than twice the number of the original building.

“The history of Colgate Elementary School epitomizes our county’s needs in the area of school construction,” Olszewski said. “As a parent, a former educator and now as your County Executive, in a way it’s both exciting but also somewhat disheartening to be speaking at a groundbreaking in 2019 to replace a school built in 1924. But as we move forward with this and other projects, I’ve made it clear that it is our priority to pursue aggressively school construction in a fiscally sustainable manner.”

The first term County Executive said it was his “hope” that his administration’s legacy will put the county on a path “where we no longer wait almost a century” to construct and open new school buildings.

“We’re here today to celebrate what this new school means for the community and the children within it.

“It is my great honor and pleasure to be here today, to think about and welcome this new school building,” Colgate Elementary principal Erin DiCello said at the event. She thanked the county’s public school system and others instrumental to the project.

“We are excited to continue that tradition that began in 1924 on this site, and are ready to make new experiences and celebrate new successes in our new building. We will proudly carry on the legacy of the school to serve our students and the community.”

According to McMillion, the original core building of Colgate Elementary School contained only eight rooms.

“Times have changed, of course,” he said. “Today we celebrate not only the construction of a brand new Colgate Elementary School, but also the history and heritage of the school and the thousands of students that learned on this site and called Colgate their second home. Our new school building will be just right for the times, just as this building was right for its times and the generations after that.”

McMillion, a fervent proponent of area communities said that the region “didn’t lose” a landmark when the old Colgate was razed.

“We gained a new family member, and one that I know everyone is excited to see to it’s completion.”

Interim Superintendent Verletta White, who was passed over for a permanent position in the top spot at BCPS last month, also attended the ceremony. Olszewski and others at the event publicly praised her commitment to the school system where she has worked for decades.

Beginning July 1, longtime Montgomery County administrator Darryl L. Williams will succeed White, who became interim superintendent after her predecessor was embroiled in a financial disclosure scandal.

“Look at the promise and potential,” she said. “The same promise and potential that our students have as well. Just like we’re taking care of every single detail and the educational journey of our students, we are taking care of every single detail of the learning environment for our students as well, that they are so very deserving of.”

Last week, Del. Robin Grammer, R-6, drew sharp criticism for a Facebook comment invoking the language of lynching when referring to White and her predecessor, who are both African American. Grammer has since deleted the comment and has defended his words as anti-corruption.

Grammer did attend the event, but was not seated near White.

“For communities like Colgate, you have schools that are 100 years old,” said Grammer at the event. “It really is a gem for them. We welcome new school construction here. We hope that parents, students and teachers enjoy it and take advantage of this opportunity.”

“I went to school here as a child,” said Michelle Baugher, a teacher and former student at Colgate. “I remember a strong, close-knit community and a caring, safe school environment. I love my school community and I consider myself lucky to teach with some of the most amazing, caring, selfless people that you’d ever meet. Even though we’re going to have a new building here, our mission and our focus stays the same. It’s always been our students and it always will be.”

“It’s about time,” Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, R-6, told The Dundalk Eagle at the groundbreaking. “We’re very happy. We know that we need the construction, and we know we need the new schools.”

Del. Bob Long, R-6, was pleased to see the new construction, as well. “The future is our children, and we have to make sure they get the best education for their best future.”

Del. Ric Metzgar, R-6, said it was a “great day” for the community and the area.

“This day will be remembered. One hundred years from now, someone will look at what we accomplished here today,” he said.

“The school is the hub of the community and so when you strengthen the hub you, strengthen the community as well,” White said.