Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda will feature 12 additional classrooms and a new gymnasium thanks to an expansion that is scheduled to be complete in August 2013.
"It's fantastic that it's happening," said Community Superintendent Chris Garran, who oversees the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster for Montgomery County Public Schools. "I have yet to find a community that is unhappy about a new building, or a modernization."
The $13 million expansion, which is being managed by HESS Construction and Engineering Services, also will more than double on-site parking at the school, modify the bus loop to accommodate more buses, and replace aging playground equipment.
To facilitate outdoor classes, the courtyard will feature a tiered seating area built into the ground, said Principal Rebecca Jones. Construction began about three and a half months ago.
“The kids are most excited about the gymnasium,” Jones said. “Not having a separate gym and still working with an all-purpose room is challenging, schedule-wise. It limits the kinds of physical activities you can do.”
The building, which was built in 1939, will be expanded to increase student capacity.
Enrollment likely will hit 420 students in the coming school year, Jones said. Construction will increase capacity to 558 students.
Enrollment is projected to be 445 by the 2017-2018 school year, Garran said.
Construction will take place during school hours in the coming academic year, but the goal is to minimize disturbances for students and staff, said James Song, director of the department of facilities management for MCPS.
"We avoid the jackhammers outside windows while school is in session, that sort of thing," Garran said.
Excess capacity will be accommodated by eight portables, which will also take the place of several classrooms which are closed during construction, Jones said. The portables will be removed after construction is complete.
To maintain the safety for students and staff, the new wing will be barricaded and monitored, Song said.
When Walter Johnson High School was modernized, Song, who was principal at the time, said the campus featured 2,000 students and 49 portables. The new campus debuted in the 2010-2011 school year.
"It can be done," Song said. "We didn't see any decline in academics or sports, or anything."