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Calvert High School may be the oldest high school currently in Calvert County Public Schools, originally built in 1963, but it now has the newest building, which staff, county officials and community leaders came out to officially christen Sunday in the facility’s new auditorium.

After three and a half years of phased construction, beginning in June 2010 and completed just two months ago, the 225,000-square-foot building welcomed students, parents, teachers and those involved with the project over the course of more than 44 months to a fresh space.

After the school’s chorus, band and orchestra welcomed guests by performing the Calvert High School alma mater, Susan Johnson, the school’s principal, spoke of the school she referred to as “rich in history, rich in community, rich in opportunity and rich in our future.”

“We are most appreciative and excited to receive this outstanding facility as we prepare all students for their future,” Johnson said to the crowd.

In between speakers, guests were entertained by the performances of the Calvert High School Chamber Choir, band, chorus and jazz ensemble, performing the National Anthem, “Home” by Phillip Phillips and other musical performances.

Nancy V. Highsmith, interim superintendent for Calvert County Public Schools, addressed the audience by acknowledging the hard work that went into the $50 million project that conceptually began more than eight years ago and her hope for the school’s future.

“We look to Calvert High to be the hub for the town center of Prince Frederick,” Highsmith said to the crowd. “To be a venue for school, system and civic events; to be a learning center, having the infrastructure to delivering the most rigorous instruction; and to be the beginning for this community’s youth to become competent and active citizens. … Let’s pledge today to continue to work together to make this school the very best school we can for the students who occupy these spaces.”

Calvert High School has seen the many changes of Calvert County since it was first built in 1963. The Calvert County High School was originally constructed at the corner of Dares Beach Road and Solomons Island Road, and has since been torn down. Following a tradition of segregation, the building originally opened its doors to white students only. Further down Dares Beach Road, black students attended W.S. Brooks School, which is now the CCPS administrative building. Calvert Senior High School was dedicated on May 5, 1963, and by 1966, Calvert County schools were fully integrated and W.S. Brooks High School was closed as an educational institution.

To officially accept the new school Sunday, a group of honorees was awarded with engraved wooden keys as a symbol of their participation in unlocking the new facility. Among those awarded were George R. Leah Jr., director of school construction for CCPS; Shuchita Warner, supervisor for school construction for CCPS; Ran Ilkovitch, from Smolen, Emr, Ilkovitch and Associates, the architects of the project; Andrew Hess from HESS Construction; David G. Lever, the executive director of the public school construction program; Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s); Pat Nutter (R), president of the Calvert County Board of Commissioners; Eugene Karol, president of the Calvert County Board of Education; Highsmith; Johnson; Margaret Moore, president of the Calvert High School PTSA; and Olivia White, president of the Student Government Association.

“From the beginning of this project, our board was determined to create a learning center that was instructionally practical and state of the art. I feel this has been accomplished,” Karol said, addressing the audience. “A building is what you make of it. In a very short time, the faculty, teachers and students turned this building into a school.”

“Everybody contributes to this,” Miller said to the crowd. “I know many of you think you pay too much in taxes, but consider this: … We’re one of five states that contributes to building schools. … These past several years, we’ve put $300 million into new schools … it takes a village to make that happen.”

Following the ceremony, students from Calvert’s MAC Scholars and National Honor Society gave tours of the new building to attendees.

snewman@somdnews.com