Accokeek Academy breaks ground on new building -- Gazette.Net



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A big change is coming to the Accokeek Academy.

Students, parents, community stakeholders and school leaders filled the school’s gymnasium Monday for an announcement many have been waiting years to hear — the official groundbreaking of a new building to replace the current, roughly 50-year-old elementary school building.

Accokeek Academy is a pre-K to eighth grade Prince George’s county school with roughly 1,200 students that was established in 2010 through the combination of neighboring schools Eugene Burroughs Middle School and Henry G. Ferguson Elementary School.

The new facility, which will be built between the existing two buildings, is set to open by August 2013 and a fully renovated middle school building is set to open by August 2014. The total project will cost more than $26 million — almost $19 million from the county and more than $7 million from the state. When the elementary school building is complete the middle school students will occupy it until renovations to the existing middle school are complete. By August 2014, both schools will be complete and middle school and elementary school students will all be moved into their respective buildings.

Parents and academy advocates say that they’ve been asking the county and state to put funding toward a new facility since the county school system conducted a facilities study in 2005 to determine which schools needed renovations. Henry G. Ferguson was placed third in the system’s list of schools needing the most repairs.

Darlene Brooks, of Accokeek, an academy Parent Teacher Student Association member, said it was their appeal and plea to county and state officials that led them to funding the project.

“We heard there wasn’t going to be a replacement, but we heard that other schools were being replaced,” she said. “We said, ‘Hey, you need to service us down here.’”

Principal Judy Adams, who is in her first year at Accokeek, said the new facility will foster a better learning environment and be in line with the school’s vision of having students be up-to-date with technology and be forward thinkers.

“We can now become the model school for the 21st century … It’s going to be an exciting time,” she said. “We have to show how important education is and when you build a facility that demonstrates the importance of education. We lose sight when we don’t provide great facilities and we don’t keep up with technology.”

Adams attributed lack of county funds during an economic downturn and the prior separation of the middle school and elementary school, noting that the county wanted to form the Accokeek Academy prior to funding a new project. She said Hess Construction, a Gaithersburg-based construction company chosen to lead the project, will begin leveling the grounds as early as this week.

The existing elementary school building will be demolished when the project is complete, and turned into additional playing fields for students, Adams said.

Del. James Proctor, Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Brandywine was among the guests during the groundbreaking ceremony, and said his daughter attended Henry Ferguson, his wife was a teacher at Henry Ferguson and he has grandchildren at both Eugene Burroughs and Henry Ferguson.

“It’s been a long process trying to get this school funded. I’m very happy and excited for it finally getting done. Thanks to everyone that wrote notes and made phone calls to get this thing done,” he said.

Accokeek resident Ray Lacy, a PTSA member and father of two students at Eugene Burroughs, said the new building and renovations will add new features to the facilities such as a larger gymnasium that can be used for various functions at once and a more efficient heating and cooling system.

“Advocating for the new school was the hardest part, even though Ferguson was the third worst school in the county,” he said. “Finally, finally, finally.”

djgross@gazette.net