New North Dorchester High School set to ‘soar’

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff Members of the Dorchester County Board of Education, county council, state and local officials and construction contractors officially break ground, Thursday, Sept. 29, for the new North Dorchester High School. Because of consistent rain the day before and day of the event, the groundbreaking was held inside the NDHS auditorium.

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff
Members of the Dorchester County Board of Education, county council, state and local officials and construction contractors officially break ground, Thursday, Sept. 29, for the new North Dorchester High School. Because of consistent rain the day before and day of the event, the groundbreaking was held inside the NDHS auditorium.

HURLOCK — After more than 60 years in an old facility, the new North Dorchester High School will be a place where Eagles can soar.

An official groundbreaking for the new school was held Thursday, Sept. 29, in the auditorium at the old NDHS. The ceremony was moved inside because of consistent rain the day before and day of the event.

The new school is projected to open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year at a cost of $48.8 million. The original NDHS was built in 1954 for $1.4 million. After more than 60 years of using that first building, many of the officials who addressed the audience said the project was long overdue.

“Welcome to an event that many doubted would ever come to pass,” said Dr. Henry V. Wagner Jr., superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools. “Who could really blame those who doubted? After all, there were so many daunting challenges that stood in the way. Where would the resources come from? What kind of school would we be able to design? How much longer would all of this take? This community was so used to waiting that waiting almost became a way of life.”

Dr. Wagner thanked the many people who helped make construction a reality, including facility and financial planners, local and state leaders, notably state Comptroller Peter Franchot, the Dorchester County Board of Education and county council, the Dorchester Delegation, the school facilities department, design and construction partners, many of whom attended the groundbreaking.

“Today belongs to those who believed,” Dr. Wagner said. “Most of all, the day belongs to the very patient, very hopeful North Dorchester High School community. That is to the students, parents, staff, administration, and alumni who knew that their faith and persistence would ultimately be rewarded.”

Current North Dorchester Middle School sixth graders and the ninth-grade class also attended the event. The ninth-grade class will be the first to graduate from the new high school in 2020. The sixth graders will be the first to spend their entire high school careers at the new facility.
Del. Johnny Mautz addressed the students.

“There are a lot of changes that are coming, and being a part of history is a great thing,” he said. “So, you ninth graders, you got to take responsibility. This school has been here for a long time. It’s got a great tradition. You’ve got a great spirit. … Your job is to keep that spirit strong. This is a wonderful, positive thing that’s going to help you and it’s going to help the community.

“And you guys in the sixth grade, your job is to make sure that the ninth graders do a good job and make sure this transition comes off right. … Be a part of history.”

Glen A. Payne Sr., a seven-year member of the Dorchester County Board of Education, and his family are a part of NDHS history. His sister, Onita Lauck, was part of the first class to graduate from NDHS in 1955. Mr. Payne graduated from there in 1963. His wife Connie Payne, daughter Ashley Eberspacher and son-in-law Scott Eberspacher all graduated from NDHS.

“I think that all the parents and grandparents will be very happy with the new school,” Mr. Payne said before the ceremony began. “The board themselves have worked very hard to bring this project to fruition.”

Comptroller Franchot, in addressing the audience, said he vividly remembers Jan. 27, 2016, when a strong Dorchester delegation appeared before the Maryland Board of Public Works to request funding from the state.

“Dorchester County was there, led by Dr. Wagner,” with many county representatives, “… instead of one or two people, which is a normal group that shows up from Montgomery County, or Prince George’s or some other big county,” the comptroller said.

According to Dr. Wagner’s statement taken from the official transcript of the Jan. 27 meeting, Glenn Bramble, vice president of the board of education; Mr. Payne, Dorchester County Council President Ricky Travers; County Councilman Rick Price; Dr. Lorenzo Hughes, assistant superintendent for instruction; Dwayne Abt, assistant superintendent for administration; NDHS Principal Lynn Sorrells; Chris Hauge, school facilities engineer; and Tim Brooke, public schools comptroller; all were in attendance.

At the groundbreaking, Mr. Franchot said of all the representatives for various schools seeking funding at the January meeting, Mr. Travers was the most effective.

“The best speaker that day … Ricky Travers got up and said, ‘Folks, Dorchester County has stepped up to the plate. We’re putting our money into this new school. We need some help from you guys on the other side of the bridge. Make this happen,’” Mr. Franchot said in paraphrasing Mr. Travers’ statement. “I tell you, Ricky Travers made an impression, folks. … Let’s be honest, after 62 years of operation, it’s time to build a new high school.”

According to Franchot’s office, the state is set to contribute $29.4 million toward the new school.

Just like at the January Board of Public Works meeting, Mr. Travers spoke briefly with words of conviction at the groundbreaking.

“I would like to say, on behalf of the county council, we were very proud to be able to support this project. It’s a long overdue project. And today is a great day because we’re starting the project,” Mr. Travers said. “The best day will be the day when we can cut the ribbon and these kids can use a facility that is way long overdue.”

Sen. Addie Eckardt addressed the students in the audience. She said the support from the county council and school board, along with support from the state, is a sign of the faith everyone has in North Dorchester community and its students. Sen. Eckardt also announced the new school slogan.

“Watch us soar,” she said. “This is the beginning, and we … will … soar.”

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