The Catholic Review
March 27, 2003

Woodmont Academy breaks ground on $30 million campus
By George P. Matysek Jr.
Review staff correspondent

Wearing a white hardhat and concentrating intently on the job at hand, Cardinal William H. Keeler pressed a shovel into the wet Cooksville earth March 21, breaking ground on a new $30 million campus for Woodmont Academy and offering a blessing for the fastest-growing Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

“It’s incredible,” raved Pam Geier, a parishioner of St. Louis in Clarksville who has two children enrolled in the private school in western Howard County. “It’s amazing how everything has happened so fast.”

Founded in 1995 with only 46 students, Woodmont Academy has grown to an enrollment of 274 boys and girls in grades pre-k through 8. That number will grow again by nearly 50 percent when the school relocates this fall from its present campus in Woodstock to its new 67-acre site along Frederick Road.

Designed by Kearns Architects and to be built by Baltimore Contractors, the first of several buildings will be erected in time for the 2003-04 school year. The initial structure will be a one-story facility that will house 23 classrooms, multi-purpose space, a chapel and offices, according to Tim Hill of Baltimore Contractors.

The building will feature a lot of glass to allow natural lighting, Mr. Hill said, along with a masonry exterior and blue roof. Up to 500 students could be accommodated inside the 25,000-square-foot structure.

Preliminary designs for the other buildings show a 70,000-square-foot “kinder building,” two separate structures for boys and girls in grades three and above, a chapel, a commons building, a gymnasium and pool, an auditorium, space for administrative services and several athletic fields.

After some of the other buildings are completed, the initial academic building will be transformed into a retreat center.

The buildings will be erected in phases, with the entire campus projected to be completed by 2013, housing up to 1,250 students. Long-term plans call for four classes in every grade. Woodmont officials said they hope to eventually build a high school but would only do so with the permission of the archdiocese.

Father Richard Gill, L.C., chairman of Woodmont’s board of directors, said the commitment of parents has been one of the key reasons for the success of the school. The Legionary of Christ priests who sponsor the school had not planned to start a school in the region, but were convinced to give it a go by the enthusiasm shown by parents in the Baltimore archdiocese, he said.
“They showed great apostolic zeal and a great love for the church,” said Father Gill, noting that he was also grateful for the support of Cardinal Keeler who allowed the school to open. “It was great to see people with that kind of faith.”

Legionaries place considerable focus on the “total formation” of children, the priest said, providing personalized spiritual formation for students and family members.

“It’s critically important to form consciences,” said Father Gill.

Michele Blum, principal, said the six busloads of Woodmont students who made the trip from their existing school to attend the groundbreaking ceremony were “overjoyed.”

Howard County Executive James N. Robey and other dignitaries were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“What Woodmont does is help the diocese with the problem of overcrowding in the Catholic schools,” said Corey Blanton, a member of the school’s board of directors, who said Woodmont has developed a reputation for rigorous academics and “incredible” test scores.

“This new campus is going to be a great blessing for Howard County and the surrounding counties,” he said.

Mr. Blanton, whose three children attend Woodmont, said the school plans to launch a capital campaign in the fall to help pay for the new campus. The existing school will be sold, he said.

E-mail George Matysek at [email protected].

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