Principal at Hallie Wells Middle School Hopes to Build a Community Within Clarksburg
As Dr. Barbara Woodward began our quick tour of the new Hallie Wells Middle School in Clarksburg, the new principal of the new school stops outside the door of the non-quite finished cafeteria and points to the new tables waiting to be unpacked and arranged.
“You can see those red circular tables,” says as she points through the window. “While not all the tables are circular, I think middle school kids and people, in general, prefer to be at round tables rather than long rectangular tables. The round tables are more conducive to building community which is a big part of what we are trying to do here. While we are putting up a school, we are really building a community. Clarksburg is a great community, and we wanted to make sure that the school was a cornerstone in that community.”
Woodward and her staff, as well as the construction crews, are hard at working getting everything completed, doing the final work for the new school; unpacking furniture, stocking store rooms, sealing floors — the gym floor still needs to be painted and sealed.
Everybody gets a punch-list of things that need to get done every morning. The construction crew from Hess Construction were working on re-keying every lock on every door so that they could give Principal Woodward keys to her building. Meanwhile, crews were outside working on landscaping and watering the newly sodded fields, which Woodward said would be handled with extreme care until sometime in November.
“Our fields will be done. However, we have scheduled our instructional program to not use the exterior fields until late fall,” said Woodward. “The reason is very specific. Sod needs a while to set. The PE department is going to use the gym, but keep students off the field to give the grass a chance to build a strong base. We also hope the community will stay off those fields and give the grass a chance to grow strong.”
When the new school opens for students on August 29, it will be the only newly constructed school opening in the county. The school cost $52.8 million to build based on the Board of Education’s FY17 Approved Capital Improvement Plan.
The building was designed by the Calverton-based architectural firm of Grimm and Parker, who had previously designed the Music Center at Strathmore, as well as Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg, and the Wilson Wims Elementary School in Clarksburg. Wims will be one of the feeder schools for the new Hallie Wells Middle School.
“This school is bright and open,” said Woodward as she continued the tour of her new school. “There is natural light everywhere including the gym and all the classrooms. The only exception are interior rooms for like computer labs, but everything else has natural light and very tall windows. It really brings your eye up.” Even the stairways are filled with natural light which streams in through windows which run from the bottom up to the roof. The media center features gigantic floor to ceiling windows which allows light to flow through the room.
When Hallie Mills Middle School opens, it will be the first new construction middle school in Montgomery County in 11 years. The last was Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg which opened in 2005.
Building a Mustang Community
One of the cool things about opening a new school is the process of creating the community, said Woodward. “Once we got the name Hallie Wells Middle School and everyone had learned about who Hallie Wells was we started thinking about our mascot,” said Woodward.