SHILOH — Dorchester County Public Schools unveiled the new North Dorchester High School building, on Wednesday, Aug. 14, complete with colorful and multifunctional spaces, clean energy systems, luxury furniture and 21st century technology throughout.
At a $43.1 million price tag, the new high school sits on 40 acres of land where the old soccer fields were located, spans 116,720 square feet and has the capacity to accommodate more than 600 students.
Whiting-Turner Construction company was contracted for the project, and Hord Coplan Macht, a Baltimore architectural team, designed the building.
The school remains on schedule to open the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 3. Crews are scheduled to finish striping the bus loop Thursday. Then the fire marshall will inspect the building before handing over the certificate of occupancy.
Upon entering the building, there is a sense of elevation, said NDHS Principal Lynn Sorrells, who described her reaction to the final product as “ecstatic.”
The floor-to-ceiling windows at the school’s front entrance peak into a modern lobby design called the “Town Hall” — speckled with clean-line seating and enough friendly color to incite collaborative creativity.
“What really speaks to me is the functionality of the entire building and how each component was intentionally designed to support student learning, and the learning experience for all the children,” Sorrells said.
Some of the building’s most notable features are the vinyl flooring, which is designed to not need extensive, regular cleaning; the convertibility of virtually every space in the school; a series of entry, hallway and classroom safety features; and comfortable, mobile seating, which project coordinators said they spent two years researching.
Sorrells likened the new school to a building design that might be found on a college campus. She said the students who have seen it were “just in awe.”
The principal said she’s most excited to be able to offer the new school as a community space where people can gather, which she said North Dorchester needed desperately.
DCPS Interim Superintendent Dave Bromwell echoed Sorrells’s sentiments toward the new school, saying it’s a “big deal” anytime projects of this magnitude are completed in the county.
“Our kids are going to have a state of the art facility for learning, and that doesn’t happen a lot,” Bromwell said. “I don’t remember anything at the northern end of the county being this much of a big deal.”
For Bromwell, who took on the role of interim superintendent at the beginning of July, this construction project being completed under his leadership feels like “coming in on a carpet ride,” he said.
“I’m super proud,” Bromwell said. “It goes way back to prior superintendents, their executive teams, county commissioners, all the stakeholder groups that are involved in this. I mean, everyone’s been a part of it, even parents.”
DCPS Facilities Engineer Chris Hauge said seeing the final product of this years-long community project felt like giving birth.
“I’ve never given birth, but I’ve been there, and I can only imagine this is what it feels like,” Hauge said. “We’re about to give birth to an incredible new facility that’s going to serve our county for decades to come.”
Hauge said any district in the country would love to have this facility, and he’s proud it’s in Dorchester County.
“It’s ours,” he said. “The efforts that went into this projects from every facet of our community, from the smallest voices to the largest voices, they were all listened to over a period of months and years before we even designed anything. It’s incredible.
“There is no perfect school, but we tried really hard to get this Rubik's Cube right for everyone,” he said.
Dorchester Educators Local Union President Katie Holbrook said the school has everything teachers, students and administrators need to prepare for growth.
Holbrook underlined the importance of the flexible seating featured in the building, which is designed to be easily moved around. She said it means a lot to teachers to have flexible seating options for students.
Holbrook also said she thinks the new school will evoke a collective feeling of pride among the students and educators.
“It’s about taking pride in the environment you’re learning in and being proud of that,” she said. “We’re moving into the 21st century by way of education.”
The new building will open its doors for tours to the community from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17; 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19; and 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20.