On a recent Tuesday afternoon, new Pikesville High School principal Sandra Reid led a group of county and state officials and PTSA representatives through some brand-new parts of the school.
The hallways were bright from natural light, the computers and technology in classrooms were new, and there was excitement and hope in the air.
“I feel like I’m recipient of a gift,” Reid said. “It just has changed the climate of the whole building.”
The school is in the midst of a $49 million renovation that essentially gutted the entire school to make way for upgrades including a new HVAC system — the school was previously un-air-conditioned — a new roof, accessibility upgrades, new classrooms, new technology and a renovated auditorium with new flooring, lighting and acoustic upgrades, a new sound system and a handicap-accessible stage. The project started a year-and-a-half ago.
“We gutted it completely,” said Jonathan Goetz, project manager with Oak Contracting. “The courtyard is gone, it’s now new classroom space. The old science wing, which sat up here on the hill, [it was] completely leveled. We put in two new science-wing additions as well. … Our second-floor wing here is all newly renovated classrooms.”
Construction is underway for the new portico and administrative offices, which should be done by the end of January, ahead of schedule.
“Finally we will finish with the auditorium and the back corner of the building — which was the old tech-ed wing — which will have tech-ed, digital and multimedia art as well as the gymnasium,” Goetz added.
The whole project should be finished in August, in time for the 2016-2017 school year.
Among those touring the school were Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Del. Shelly Hettleman, a representative of Del. Dana Stein’s office, PTSA president Casey Parson and vice president of membership and fundraising Sherri Flaks.
“It just really is exciting to see how modern this school is, and the energy exudes from everyone within the building,” Kamenetz said after the tour. “Everyone is excited and should be.”
It just has changed the climate of the whole building. — Principal Sandra Reid
While there is normally a one-to-one match from the state for projects such as this, Baltimore County contributed almost $38 million, 78 percent of the funds, compared with the state’s almost $11 million, 22 percent of the funds. Last year, the county added $4 million to its Fiscal Year 2016 budget to ensure the school would get a complete renovation. Upgrades to the auditorium and other areas may have gotten cut without that additional funding.
Reid was eager to show off the newer parts of her school, first stopping at a new science classroom, the sight of which, she said, made a first-year teacher cry from excitement. She took the tour to an Interactive Media Production (IMP) room, which had a green screen, lighting and camera equipment. The “quasi-magnet,” as Reid called it, produces PR materials for the school as well as various shows and presentations.
“It’s definitely made a big impact on me,” senior Jillian Offermann said. The IMP program, in which she makes movies, posters and 3D animation, was a big part of why she chose to attend Pikesville over another area school.
Added senior Amalya Murrill: “The skills you learn in this class can transcend making cool stuff.” Both she and Offermann are members of the National Technical Honor Society.
While walking around the school, Reid pointed out the library’s new computer labs and the school’s new career center, where students can research colleges. Before taking the group outside to where the new entrance and offices are under construction, she stopped in the cafeteria, which was enlarged, and now has new furniture and glass walls all around.
In addition to a new school, Parson, the PTSA president, said the school community owes a lot to its new principal, who has expanded after-school clubs and brought back school spirit events that hadn’t been held in years.
“Pikesville’s just rising to incredible highs,” said Parson, who took her kids out of private school to send them to Pikesville. “The students are so excited coming in. They just come in here and they have a whole new feeling.”
Hettleman, who graduated from Pikesville in 1982, said the renovations were “transformational.”
“The community has this wonderful gem now right in the midst of it, and it’s a great bridge between the students, parents and the local community,” she said, “and it’s just going to be a great magnet for families.”