Gaithersburg High School Construction On Pace For August Opening

“It was designed with students in mind,” Gaithersburg principal Christine Handy-Collins said. “It’s a place where kids are certainly going to want to come to school.”

When Gaithersburg High School began construction of a new building in the summer of 2011, Principal Christine Handy-Collins knew it would be a long and difficult process.

But the construction process is still on schedule, and the building is set to open on time. So when the new school opens its doors to students for the start of the 2013-14 academic year, the wait should prove worth it.

“This has been a long time coming,” Handy-Collins said. “We’re really excited about the opening of the new school.”

Construction began two summers ago when parents and community members began lobbying the school board and city council, using the phrase, “The time is now,” to call for a change. The school’s original building was built in 1951, so the school was in desperate need of an upgrade.

Gaithersburg High School is getting that upgrade now, but there’s still work to be done. The new building is being built on the original structure’s parking lot, so construction of the new parking lot—which will go where the current building stands—and some of the athletic fields won’t be completed for approximately another year.

“Certainly, when your having a school construction project right on your property, it brings challenges,” Handy-Collins said, citing traffic problems as one of the most difficult issues the school faced. “Any time you have that major of a construction project on your site, there are going to be things that come with it."

A lot of progress has been made, though. The project is being put together by Maryland- and Virginia-based construction company Hess, a firm that has also done work for local schools such as Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda and Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring.

Hess has completed the new football field and track facility, and they said the steel structure is complete and all the floor slabs are poured. According to their website, 70 percent of the roofing is complete and 60 percent of both the brick veneer and window installation is complete.

The new building is being designed in a way that will help foster what Handy-Collins called “21st century learning.” The school will have all the latest technology, the desks are laid out in a which encourages collaboration from students, and the science labs will be state of the art.

“It was designed with students in mind,” Handy-Collins said. “It’s a place where kids are certainly going to want to come to school.”

The students are excited about the new building as well. The seniors get to say they were the last class ever to spend all four years in the original building, and the younger students get to make their mark on a brand new Gaithersburg High School next year.

“Any time you have something new and fresh, there’s excitement in the air,” Handy-Collins said. “Any time you want to get something brand new, you want to wear it. So I believe the students will be excited, and they will be proud.”


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