A new “green” building for Avalon Elementary School in Fort Washington has been lauded by county and state officials as a step forward for the development of schools in southern Prince George’s County and a boost to student achievement through new education programs and classes.
Officials broke ground Nov. 30 on the 60,520-square-foot, single-story building located at 7302 Webster Lane.
The new building with environmentally friendly features is scheduled to open by January 2013, with construction starting in January 2012.
Principal Dianne G. Bruce said the school’s current enrollment is 342 students, with about 22 teachers. The new building will be able to accommodate 449 students and 53 teachers.
The total cost for the project is about $19 million, with the state contributing about $6.6 million, or 35 percent of the costs, with the county paying for the rest.
The new building will be designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification. LEED is a voluntary standard to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations. LEED Gold certification is the second-highest level of achievement out of four levels — platinum, gold, silver and certified — with platinum being the highest.
Birgitt Brevard, a school spokeswoman, said Barack Obama Elementary in Upper Marlboro and Vansville Elementary in Beltsville currently are the only two schools in the county that have LEED Gold certification.
In 2008, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law that requires all school construction to meet LEED silver or gold standards. Rankings are determined using a 100 base point system in categories such as water efficiency, sustainability, and energy and atmosphere.
Bruce said some of the key features of the new school building will include a larger multipurpose room to accommodate school and community events, a media center, energy-efficient lighting and heating and cooling, and separate playground areas for younger and older children. The new school will serve prekindergarten through sixth grade.
“It’s a beautiful building,” she said. “I’m excited, everyone is excited about going into a new structure.”
At Wednesday’s ceremony, architects from Gaithersburg-based DCMM Architects said the new school also will be built to accommodate solar panels, which would allow the school to use the sun’s energy to generate electricity for lights.
Del. Veronica Turner (D-Dist. 26) of Camp Springs said Wednesday she has fond memories of the school. Her twin daughters, Trinita and Juanita Turner, now 34, attended Avalon when they were children.
“This is a great day,” she said. “We’ve got the best of the best here. We knew this had to be done.”
The original school building located on Webster Lane was built in 1964 and demolished in November to make room for the new building, according to the school system.
School counselor Monifa Carpenter, who has worked at the school for about 11 years, said the former school building had no bathrooms in classrooms and an overcrowded multipurpose room where school events were held.
Bruce said the old school building design also created problems for parents, who had to wait in their cars on the narrow street for buses to unload or pick up students first before they could get into the school. She said the new school building will be designed with a temporary waiting area for cars.
Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III (Dist. 8) of Camp Springs said the new school will be a victory for the southern part of Prince George’s County, which he feels is often overlooked when it comes to funding for school construction and renovation projects.
“It’s really about time that we finally get what we deserve in the southern end of the county,” Burroughs said, referring to approved construction projects starting next year at Oxon Hill High School and Temple Hills’ Crossland High School, both located in southern Prince George’s County.
The new school, like the old one, will not have a gymnasium due to lack of funding, but Bruce said the multipurpose room will be built large enough to accommodate physical education classes. There are no plans for a gym in the near future, as students are used to a school without one.
She said students and teachers also have formed a green committee to focus on environmental initiatives and goals for the school. The school currently participates in recycling and has made attempts to cut down on the use of paper through staff emails and with correspondences to parents.
Bruce said as part of being a green school, staff members will be required to attend training sessions on how the new school’s environmental features will operate. She said there also is an opportunity for teachers to expand their curriculum to include studies on green topics.
“They will be able to learn a little bit more about the environment and how to be more responsible stewards of the environment,” she said.
Avalon Elementary is being housed at the former Middleton Valley Elementary School site in Temple Hills at 4815 Dalton St., about three miles from the new school site, while construction is taking place.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the kids’ faces when they walk into the new building,” said music education teacher Trendle Thomas, who has worked at Avalon for 15 years.
PTA President and Temple Hills resident Antwine Stanley said the new school building will serve as a cornerstone to the community.
“The new school will be a green school which hopefully other schools will catch on [to,] showing our children we must take care of the Earth,” he wrote in an email.
Carpenter said she is excited about receiving additional training as part of a green school.
“For me, on a personal level, it felt empowering to have someone dedicate enough time to recognize a need that needed to be met as a school and a community as a whole,” she said.