Officials break ground for new Victory Villa Elementary School
- By Patrick Taylor -
County and state officials gathered Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the site of Victory Villa Elementary in Middle River to officially break ground for the new building.
Set to open at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, construction for the new Victory Villa school building is already ahead of schedule, with the groundbreaking taking place in the shadow of the building’s steel skeleton.
“I can’t believe the progress already being made and I am very excited for the new school to open its doors next year,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6), who represents the area.
Bevins was especially pleased as this is the first new school to come to her district since she took office in 2010. “This groundbreaking not only represents a new school for this area, but progress in the community,” she said.
Other officials on hand for the groundbreaking included County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Interim Superintendent Verletta White, state delegates Bob Long, Robin Grammer and Ric Metzgar (all R-6) and multiple Board of Education members, including board chair Edward Gilliss and board member Stephen Verch.
Gilliss spent his time delving into the history of the school, which initially opened in 1942 as thousands flooded into the Middle River area to work at the Glenn L. Martin factory. Originally called “The Middle River School,” it was built as a temporary school for those families who were just moving into the area. Fast forward more than 70 years and the “temporary” school was still standing.
“I think it’s time for a change, and I bet you agree with me,” said Gilliss. “This site will house a center for learning in the Middle River community, a place where children will grow and thrive while honoring the community’s history and identity.
Kamenetz noted that Victory Villa is the 83rd school since 2011 to be renovated or rebuilt, touting the success of his administration’s $1.3 billion “Schools for Our Future” initiative. The new Victory Villa building cost approximately $39 million to construct.
“It’s an historic investment,” said Kamenetz. “This is the largest single construction initiative in the history of our county, and we’re really excited about it.”
According to Kamenetz, the new facility will have central air conditioning, school-wide Wi-Fi and an updated security system. The new school will also be a “passport school,” with students taking a foreign language starting in the fourth grade. Victory Villa’s capacity will increase from 326 to 735 students, helping to alleviate overcrowding in the area.
White stated that the need to create more seats due to overcrowding was a “good problem to have,” as it meant “more families are choosing Baltimore County Public Schools.”
Those sentiments were shared by Bevins.
“Baltimore County has some of the best public schools in the region,” she said. “Part of the reason so many families from other counties move to this county is so their children can attend Baltimroe County Public Schools. When I visit these schools I see students eager to learn, the hardest working teachers and principals in the state and parents who are invested in their children’s future.”
Investment in the future was the theme of the day, with Victory Villa principal Marge Roberts all stating that the move to rebuild the school was long overdue.
“As principal I can proudly say our staff, students and families are thrilled to witness this transformation of our historical temporary schoolhouse into a 21st century learning environment,” said Roberts.
Most of White’s time at the podium was spent recounting a memory when she previously worked with Victory Villa in a supervisory roll. An older gentleman, whose wife had just passed away, showed up to the school. When asked if he had children or grandchildren at the school, he said no, but added that he returned to the elementary school because “that’s where he remembered feeling supported.”
“Schools are the hub of communities,” said White. “We have to keep that in mind, whenever we’re building a new facility, or whenever we’re supporting and maintaining our existing facilities.”